People have criticised this trend in the past, with those worried about global warming on one side and those worried about flooding and rising sea levels on the other. However, new research suggests that “cool roofs” could actually help to tackle both problems at once.
To be sure, the construction and maintenance of roofs can be a major energy drain, particularly when they need to be easily accessible by the end user. A consultant to the European Commission called for better measurement and data collection to improve such systems across Europe and the United States to find out how much carbon a given roof can absorb and how that affects the environment.
“But there’s little incentive for using them now,” the researcher found. “Until we have better data, roof planning is based on opinions or a consumer preference, and installing new systems is very expensive.”
To find out if a “cool roof” concept is indeed enough to introduce into infrastructure planning, the researchers set up a system to install 25,000 ultra-green roofs at 33 airport parking lots. Each of the roofs measures just 30cm in diameter and the results were scrutinised by computer simulations, which showed that it is cost-effective and a good environmental choice. “Given the modest price of the ultra-green roof and its small size, we have to presume that it saves a significant amount of energy,” said the study author, Elizabeth Seelig.
The results could prove positive for the rest of the world as well. “It’s good news for the environment in that the required energy saved may amount to sufficient to reduce global carbon emissions,” Seelig added. “And at the same time, we hope that it leads to low costs and better environmental performance for the air.”