U.S. Department of Energy Embarks on Cool Roof Initiative

WASHINGTON, DC — The U.S. Department of Energy has launched a cool roof initiative, and Energy Secretary Steven Chu is urging other government agencies to follow his department's lead.

"Cool roofs are one of the quickest and lowest cost ways we can reduce our global carbon emissions and begin the hard work of slowing climate change," Chu said in a statement this week.

"By demonstrating the benefits of cool roofs on our facilities, the federal government can lead the nation toward more sustainable building practices, while reducing the federal carbon footprint and saving money for taxpayers."

Cool roofs reflect sunlight and reduce heat gain, which decreases the need for air conditioning, saves energy and reduces carbon emissions. Cool roofs also reduce the heat island effect found in urban and campus settings where concentrations of black or dark roofs and paved surfaces create areas where the ambient air temperature is higher and the air quality is poorer.

Cool Roof DiagramChu has directed his department to install cool roofs when constructing new ones, or replacing old ones, as long as it is cost effective to do so given the life expectancy of the roof.

"Because cool roofs provide significant energy savings and environmental benefits, they should be used whenever practicable," Chu wrote in a memo (pdf) to leaders in his department in June regarding installation of cool roofs on DOE buildings. "Accordingly, effective immediately unless determined uneconomical by a lifecycle cost analysis, roof replacements and roofs for new construction shall be cool roofs."

This week, Chu detailed the DOE initiative, sent letters to the heads of other government departments and agencies and released the DOE Guidelines for Selecting Cool Roofs (pdf). The resource explains how cool roofs work, their benefits and how to select the right one for a facility.

Next Page: The National Nuclear Security Administration saves $500,000 a year with cool, white roofs.