Sunday, December 9, 2012

What's next for white roof painting?




What's next for NYC CoolRoofs, the City's white roof painting project, after the Bloomberg Adminstration? 

During 2008 - 2010, I spent a lot of time promoting white roof painting, both as a volunteer project at Sierra Club's NYC Group with John Kolp, and through my day job at LIC Partnership,
 to the commercial building community

I thought it would be a good way to recruit volunteers who wanted to do something tangible and practical to slow global warming, while also lowering air conditioning costs and the urban heat island effect, which makes NYC even hotter in the summer than surrounding greener areas. 

In figuring out how to explain the project to commercial building owners, I learned a few things.  The cost of the expensive, highly reflective coating can be paid off through lower air conditioning costs in about three years, for a few buildings that meet certain criteria: owner-occupied commercial buildings of one or two stories that had black tar roofs and were not very energy efficient. For other types of buildings, it would take much longer for the investment in coating to pay for itself.

Business owners are more willing to invest in energy efficiency programs with a return on investment within three years, and more reluctant the longer it takes to get return on their investment.  I can attest that as a voluntary program for building owners, despite the offering of free volunteer labor to paint the roof, NYC CoolRoofs had limited appeal.  There was not enough in it for them.


Even if nonprofit organizations were more environmentally concerned, they were even more reluctant to pay for the paint.  Sometimes NYC CoolRoofs could sweeten the deal by bringing in corporate sponsors willing to pay for the coating in addition to the free volunteer labor already offered by the City. 

While that was an easier sell, even free paint, free labor and a green marketing opportunity did not guarantee the consent of nonprofit groups to having strangers tramping on their roof and hopefully not causing any damage.  Using my day job connections in the western Queens business community, I was able to contact many nonprofit facilities, and 
referred about 20 buildings to NYC CoolRoofs
How much rooftop space has been painted white?

According to the NYC CoolRoofs 2011 annual report, since the program’s launch in 2010 it has coated 2.5 million square feet of rooftop across 288 buildings. In 2011, 1.3 million square feet was coated.  Building owners coating their own roofs accounted for about 600,000 s.f. of 2011’s figure.   Cause for enthusiasm?

How much of the City’s total rooftop space is that?

Columbia’s Urban Design Lab, looking at available space for rooftop agriculture (p. 40), found that NYC has approximately 1 million buildings, with a total of 38,256 total acres of rooftop area. Columbia University’s study on green roofs and stormwater retention cites a figure of about 1 billion square feet of rooftop space in NYC.

So to put things in perspective, NYC CoolRoofs has been able to coat around 1/1000th of the City’s roof space white each year.  It's fair to say that it's more important as an educational and organizing tool than a mainstay of the City's energy conservation efforts. Recognizing that reality can help guide NYC's white roof painting efforts, and the work of its advocates.

As a voluntary program, white roof painting has a very limited impact: it’s like pushing a rope. It will only appeal to a small number of volunteers and businesses large enough to be concerned about promoting their image as a green company. As I explain in my report “Engaging Community Groups to Promote Energy Efficiency, Solar Power and Local Agriculture,” it’s easier to promote voluntary sustainability initiatives if they provide financial benefits to New Yorkers.When sustainability initiatives don’t provide those benefits, they must be required by law in order to be adopted as standard practice.
  

A few months back I ran into one of the key contractors for the NYC CoolRoofs program and we discussed the difficulties of getting building owners to sign up voluntarily.  She told me some very good news: the NYC building code had been changed so that for new construction or replacement of existing roofs, owners had to use roofing materials meeting minimum standards of
rooftop reflectivity.  Here's the NYC Council bill.  Here's the NYC Building Code update.

My guess is that NYC CoolRoofs - as a program appealing to voluntary roof painting - will disappear at the end of the Bloomberg Administration. 

Its legacy, the building code change, is mundane and to most New Yorkers virtually invisible.  However, it's extremely significant.  A small percent of NYC roofs get built or replaced every year. By requiring reflective roofs as a matter of law, NYC's roofs will gradually and inexorably become much cooler.  The lesson here is simple: where neither incentives nor free market solutions will work, sensible government action is required.  Kudos to the NYC officials who raised the bar.  



18 comments:

  1. Great post! Thanks for sharing this information. I gained quite a lot of knowledge after reading your blog thank you.

    Painter Perth | Perth Painters | Commercial Painters Perth

    ReplyDelete
  2. painters-painters is a professional perth painters in Western Australian company. We experienced in providing residential & commercial painting services.

    Painters Perth

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks for every other informative web site. The place else may I get that kind of info written in such a perfect approach? I’ve a mission that I’m simply now working on, and I have been at the glance out for such info. Finally I read a very effective materia.
    זיפות גגות

    ReplyDelete
  4. The article presented here is very effective and of high quality. I hope you continue to write us a quality content like this story and I personally always'll follow articles and this amazing site.
    איטום גגות מרוצפים

    ReplyDelete
  5. Renovate your home by hiring top quality painter.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Wonderful, just what a blog it is! This blog has provided the helpful data to us continue the good work.Sky Roofing

    ReplyDelete
  7. איטום בסנפלינג

    איטומים - מתמחה במגוון עבודות איטום כגון: איטום גגות, קירות חיצוני

    איטומים - מתמחה במגוון עבודות איטום כגון: איטום גגות, קירות חיצוניים, יריעות ביטומניות, זיפות ועוד. בין החברות המקצועיות ביותר בישראל בשירותי איטום ובידוד מבנים.
    website: www.itumim.com

    ReplyDelete
  8. A roofing job should be taken seriously because it can be costly and even disastrous if done haphazardly. Roofers of Fort Lauderdale are very much experienced in the field of roofing. They know how to put the tile on their place with perfection and with great care.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I think your post is very good, rather I would have liked to read a bit more about this topic because I think it is quite interesting. So i look forward to see next updates.
    Sydney Painting houses | Roof restoration prices Sydney

    ReplyDelete
  10. Some friends of mine are thinking about doing this very thing to some homes around our neighborhood. We've never done anything like this before so we aren't sure how this all goes down or what the expenses will be. This has some great tips on what to expect from this and I hope that we can make this project work.

    http://www.icoatpainting.com.au

    ReplyDelete
  11. Roofs may need replacing for several reasons. It may be leaking and be more economical to replace rather than repair it. The roof may not be working correctly or does not look good. Another reason for replacing the roof may be because you are extending your home and want the roof to look fully uniform.
    North Brisbane roofing repairs
    roof restoration Brisbane Northside

    ReplyDelete
  12. You’ve made some good points there. it’s a good idea!

    Commercial Painting

    ReplyDelete
  13. After roof cleaning the house picture looks very beautiful.I think any house to keep beautiful and preserve from damage should roof cleaning regularly.Thanks for sharing benefits of roof cleaning.
    Brisbane Northside roof repairs
    roof restoration North Brisbane

    ReplyDelete
  14. It seems like such a marvelous idea to get your tile cleaned on your roof! That's true that maintenance on your roof will make the lifespan of your roof last longer. I've been thinking about getting some tile roof cleaning.
    Brisbane Northside roof repairs
    roof leak repair Brighton

    ReplyDelete
  15. This site is good because they give us a new thing and new ideas and new topic how good all of they are we should appreciate them because of these good thing.
    I know something information, to know you can click here
    Brisbane builders
    home renovations Brisbane South

    ReplyDelete
  16. Your post is very amazing. I was seeking to know about roof painting and I found your blog post where you told clearly of this device. I appreciate and thank to provide this informative post with us. Keep up the good work!

    ReplyDelete