Ever notice how much hotter the City gets in the summer? The black, impermeable nature of nearly every rooftop (not to mention parking lots and sidewalks) acts like a magnet to the sun. This lovely little phenomenon is called ‘heat island effect’, and according to the EPA, it leads to increased energy consumption, elevated emissions of air pollutants and greenhouse gases, and even impaired water quality.

But we don’t just have to sweat and bear it. An easy way to combat this effect is simply changing rooftops from black to white. The City of Pittsburgh recently announced a program to paint the roofs of 10 city-owned buildings white in hopes that it might improve energy efficiency.

white roof
Image via Flickr

Dubbed the “Cool Roofs” program, the effort will be implemented the city’s community service initiative, servePGH, in partnership with the Department of Public Works and the Office of Sustainability and Energy Efficiency. There are 10 public buildings that are slated to get a new coat of roof paint, starting with the Mount Washington fire station.

The program is currently seeking citizen volunteers who would like to offer their painting skills. Those who want to help cover all 50,000 square feet of rooftop will use a special reflective paint that deflects heat rather than absorbing it. White roofs have been shown to reduce the internal temperature of a building by up to 20 percent, drastically reducing the amount of electricity needed by air conditioning systems. According to project officials, the City of Pittsburgh expects to lower the city’s carbon dioxide emissions by up to 50 tons thanks to the roofs alone.

The cooling effect can even spread to neighboring areas, Lindsay Baxter, a project manager with the Pennsylvania Environmental Council, told the Post-Gazette.

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