Climate Change

A Concrete Plan

By Ryan McGreal
Published June 08, 2007

Citizens at City Hall reports that west end resident Alex Matheson recommended to the city to paint roofs, parking lots and other horizontal surfaces white to reduce the heat island effect and reflect sunlight.

Councillor Lloyd Ferguson, noting that this would require a lot of maintenance and that the paint could find its way into the municipal water system, recommended using light-coloured concrete instead of asphalt to get the same effect.

He pointed out that the price of asphalt has more than doubled in the past couple of years (due to rising oil prices). Concrete, by contrast, has lower lifetime costs and can be poured and set very quickly using new methods.

(Thanks to Mary Louise, the alert RTH reader who picked up on this piece of news and asked me to file it under "even a stopped clock is right twice a day".)

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan writes a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. He also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on Twitter @RyanMcGreal. Recently, he took the plunge and finally joined Facebook.

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By Block43 (anonymous) | Posted June 11, 2007 at 14:53:16

Although this idea seems novel, I think a better solution would be to require industry and commercial buildings to install green roof technology. This technology reduces the heat island effect in cities, reduce heating and cooling costs for the building and significantly reduce runoff. Seems more beneficial than simply painting a roof white.

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By Frank (registered) | Posted June 11, 2007 at 16:25:06

Concrete itself might be cheaper however, concrete in roofs and any structural member is reinforced. Was reinforcing steel and placing labour included in the cheaper cost? Working for the largest rebar company in Canada, I know that this doesn't come cheap especially as steel prices have gone up in the last while.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted June 11, 2007 at 17:02:50

It seems clear that green roofs offer more potential on top of buildings, but concrete may be more sensible to use on ground-level surfaces that can't be covered in greenery.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted June 11, 2007 at 18:14:08

In a perfect world all flat roofs would be green roofs. Until that time however, this seems like a quick easy fix. Green roofs on schools for example, is a distant dream, but white roofs would be a simple, cost-effective solution that could happen right away, and wouldn't preclude green roofs in the future.

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By w willy (registered) | Posted June 11, 2007 at 21:16:19

You give the good councillor too much credit. Do his claims about white roofs stand up in the face of the evidence of places that have done this? Tom Cooper brought up the white roof thing in another blog entry just this week. Perhaps he could fill us in on how it has worked (or not worked) elsewhere.

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By Mary Louise (anonymous) | Posted June 12, 2007 at 12:06:33

It was Alex Matheson who proposed the white roof idea. According to the CATCH article there is evidence of the benefits from other jurisdictions where this has been done, although no specific links or reports were sited.

What councillor Ferguson proposed was using concrete for parking lots rather than painting them white as Mr. Matheson had suggested. I think he makes a good argument. Since we can't post links, go to the CATCH website and click on 'Going white for the environment' to see more details of what Ferguson and Matheson had to say.

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By Block43 (anonymous) | Posted June 12, 2007 at 12:12:42

Although I agree that paving with concrete rather than asphalt or soil would result in a higher albedo. I would hope that porous pavement would be included to reduce the amount of runoff generated. Does anyone have any connections with any large industry in Hamilton. Perhaps they could become a leader in sustainable environmental practices by incoporating green roof technology on their buildings and porous, albedo boosting concrete on their ground level surfaces. I think this would help lower fugitive dust emissions from their site.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted June 12, 2007 at 14:13:01

Mary Louise wrote: "Since we can't post links..."

In fact, if you register a user account on RTH (it's free and we don't share email addresses), you can post the URL and it will appear in your comment as a hyperlink, like so:

http://www.raisethehammer.org/createacco...

Hyperlinks are disabled for anonymous comments.

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