High-albedo materials for reducing building cooling energy use

Publication Type





One simple and effective way to mitigate urban heat islands, i.e., the higher temperatures in cities compared to those of the surrounds, and their negative impacts on cooling energy consumption is to use high-albedo materials on major urban surfaces such as rooftops, streets, sidewalks, school yards, and the exposed surfaces of parking lots. High-albedo materials can save cooling energy use by directly reducing the heat gain through a building`s envelope (direct effect) and also by lowering the urban air temperature in the neighborhood of the building (indirect effect).

This project is an attempt to address high-albedo materials for buildings and to perform measurements of roof coatings. We search for existing methods and materials to implement fighter colors on major building and urban surfaces. Their cost effectiveness are examined and the possible related technical, maintenance, and environmental problems are identified. We develop a method for measuring albedo in the field by studying the instrumentation aspects of such measurements. The surface temperature impacts of various albedo/materials in the actual outdoor environment are studied by measuring the surface temperatures of a variety of materials tested on an actual roof. We also generate an albedo database for several urban surfaces to serve as a reference for future use.

The results indicate that high-albedo materials can have a large impact on the surface temperature regime. On clear sunny days, when the solar noon surface temperatures of conventional roofing materials were about 40 degrees C (72 degrees F) warmer than air, the surface temperature of high-albedo coatings were only about 5degreesC warmer than air. In the morning and in the late afternoon, the high-albedo materials were as cool as the air itself. While conventional roofing materials warm up by an average 0.055 degrees C/(W m-2), the high-albedo surfaces warm up by an average 0.015 degrees C/(W m-2).

Year of Publication



Added to JabRef: 2010.04.21


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