Mitigation of urban heat islands: materials, utility programs, updates

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Journal Article

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Elevated temperatures in urban "heat islands" increase cooling energy use and accelerate the formation of urban smog. Urban shade trees and light-colored surfaces can offset or reverse the heat island and conserve energy. Implementation of heat island mitigation measures is now a prominent part of President Clinton's Climate Change Action Plan to control the emissions of greenhouse gases, necessitating a better understanding of the quantitative benefits of these control measures. We present recent measurements of the air-conditioning savings for houses in Sacramento and Florida, and air temperature measurements at White Sands National Monument, New Mexico. We also discuss the results of meteorological and smog simulations for the Los Angeles Basin. The albedo of a city may be increased gradually if high-albedo surfaces are chosen to replace darker materials during routine maintenance of roofs and roads. Such high-albedo surfaces may last longer than their conventional dark counterparts. Utility-sponsored incentive programs, product labeling, and standards could promote the use of high-albedo materials for buildings and roads, and several paint manufacturers have expressed interest in participating in a "cool surfaces" labeling program. We examine the spectral reflectance of various white coatings and building materials that might be labeled in such a program.


Energy and Buildings



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Research Areas