This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

July 21, 2010

DOE Takes Steps to Implement Cool Roofs across the Federal Government

Photo of a large building from above.

The Environmental Protection Agency's Research Triangle Park facility cool roof is an example of this cooling technology.
Credit: Environmental Protection Agency

DOE announced on July 19 a series of initiatives to more broadly implement cool roof technologies on DOE facilities and buildings across the country. As part of the new efforts, DOE will install a cool roof, whenever cost effective over the lifetime of the roof, during construction of a new roof or the replacement of an old one at a DOE facility. Buildings use 40% of all U.S. energy and contribute about 35% of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. Cool roofs rely on lighter-colored roofing surfaces or special coatings to reflect more of the sun's heat. Re-roofing for DOE headquarters in Washington, D.C., will begin this summer. Similar efforts are also underway at DOE's Idaho National Laboratory and Brookhaven National Laboratory. Together, these projects will cover more than 350,000 square feet and save thousands of dollars for taxpayers annually.

As an example of a project already underway, the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), a separately organized agency within DOE, has already installed more than two million square feet of cool and white roofs at NNSA sites across the country. Through the Roof Asset Management Program, NNSA currently saves an average of $500,000 a year in energy costs and expects to save more than $10 million over the next 15 years. Overall, NNSA has reduced building heating and cooling costs by an average of 70% annually on reroofed areas by installing cool roofs and increasing insulation.

While announcing the new initiatives, Energy Secretary Steven Chu also issued a letter to the heads of other federal agencies, encouraging them to take similar steps at their facilities. To offer additional support for federal and commercial building operators considering cool roofs, DOE released its "Guidelines for Selecting Cool Roofs." The guidelines provide technical assistance on types of roofing materials and the selection of a roof that will work best on a specific facility. These measures follow President Obama's Executive Order on Sustainability, issued in October 2009 and under which the federal government committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions 28% by 2020.

DOE is also expanding its cool roof research to enable technological innovation and guide policy implementation. The effort includes developing advanced testing protocols, conducting urban heat islands, and undertaking studies to further quantify the direct global cooling benefits associated with cool surfaces. A recent study by DOE's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) found that using cool roofs and pavements in cities around the world can help trim the demand for air conditioning, decrease temperatures for entire cities, and potentially cancel the heating effect of up to two years of worldwide carbon dioxide emissions. The Department also anticipates awarding new projects to develop higher performing, new innovative roofing materials under the DOE's Small Business Innovation Research grant program. See the DOE press release, Secretary Chu's memorandum (PDF 395 KB), Guidelines for Selecting Cool Roofs (PDF 909 KB), Secretary Chu's YouTube video on cool roofs, and the LBNL study. Download Adobe Reader.