Cool Roof: Fighting intense heat with sustainable tech

In the past years, scientists have projected that certain places around the world would have levels of heat and humidity that were rarely experienced before by humans. This is already happening, according to scientific reports.

One study from the journal “Science Advances” talked about the “wet bulb” method, a way to measure temperature and moisture in the air. A wet bulb measurement of 35 meant that a place is inhabitable for human beings. The Philippines was already at 30 about 2 years ago. 

“Even the strongest, best-adapted people cannot carry out normal outdoor activities when the wet bulb hits 32; most others would crumble well before that. A reading of 35 is considered the theoretical survivability limit,” according to climate studies. 

Turning up the AC

Even without the scientific studies, we all know that the planet is getting hotter—we feel this. So what do people do? We turn up the AC. However, whether we are aware of it or not, this action only results in increased energy demand, which eventually leads to more greenhouse gas emissions. It is, indeed, a vicious cycle.

According to the Department of Energy’s 2019 Power Situation Report, about 52% of our energy consumption comes from commercial and industrial properties. And speaking of ACs, research shows that 60% of this energy load is from HVAC systems.

The Cool Roof technology

One of the keys to mitigating the effects of intense warming is to find a way to cool down spaces without necessarily having to increase energy demand. With the Cool Roof technology, sustainable cooling is possible.

The number one heat source is, quite obviously, solar radiation. The majority of the heat load comes from the roof. This heat is slowly released into indoor spaces, increasing the need for cooling. To climate-proof a building, therefore, one should start with the roof.

The Cool Roof technology uses a special kind of coating that is applied on a building’s roof (and outside walls) to block solar heat, resulting in lower indoor temperatures. This means we don’t have to use the AC as much, which obviously leads to lower energy consumption and lower carbon emission.

This technology is already being used in other countries through the efforts of groups such as the US-EPA, EU-CRC, APEC, KIGALI, World Bank – ESMAP, US – CRRC, and Global Cool Cities Alliance. And the good news is that this technology is now available in the Philippines, which is great for the property industry and industrial companies as our country’s energy security and contribution to the global climate change efforts are largely in the hands of the commercial and industrial players.

But how much does it cost?

Those who don’t know about Green Financing would easily reject the idea because thermal efficiency is not really a priority for many facilities and organizations. But certain banks in the Philippines could finance Cool Roof application via a climate loan. Funds for the repayment of this loan can easily come from savings—as much as 60%—on the regular energy and cooling expenses. Yes, you could say that one can avail of the technology without investing new money.

The Philippine government committed to the Paris Agreement a 75% reduction in carbon emissions by the year 2030 (First National Determined Contribution, 2020). In 2019, former president Duterte also signed the “Energy Efficiency and Conservation Act,” which mandates all government facilities, including Government-Owned and Controlled Private Corporations and large corporations whose operations are energy/carbon-intensive, to implement the energy efficiency measures stated in the legislation. 

If the industrial sector were to embrace the Cool Roof technology, it can potentially help to reduce carbon emissions by as much as 30 million metric tons, a major contribution to the country’s emission reduction commitment. 

(Email the author at [email protected])

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