NYT: White Roofs Catch On as Energy Cost Cutters

Published: July 29, 2009 The New York Times

SAN FRANCISCO — Returning to their ranch-style house in Sacramento after a long summer workday, Jon and Kim Waldrep were routinely met by a wall of heat.

“We’d come home in the summer, and the house would be 115 degrees, stifling,” said Mr. Waldrep, a regional manager for a national company.

He or his wife would race to the thermostat and turn on the air-conditioning as their four small children, just picked up from day care, awaited relief.

All that changed last month. “Now we come home on days when it’s over 100 degrees outside, and the house is at 80 degrees,” Mr. Waldrep said.

Their solution was a new roof: a shiny plasticized white covering that experts say is not only an energy saver but also a way to help cool the planet.

Relying on the centuries-old principle that white objects absorb less heat than dark ones, homeowners like the Waldreps are in the vanguard of a movement embracing “cool roofs” as one of the most affordable weapons against climate change.

Studies show that white roofs reduce air-conditioning costs by 20 percent or more in hot, sunny weather. Lower energy consumption also means fewer of the carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to global warming.

What is more, a white roof can cost as little as 15 percent more than its dark counterpart, depending on the materials used, while slashing electricity bills.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu, a Nobel laureate in physics, has proselytized for cool roofs at home and abroad. “Make it white,” he advised a television audience on Comedy Central’s “Daily Show” last week.

The scientist Mr. Chu calls his hero, Art Rosenfeld, a member of the California Energy Commission who has been campaigning for cool roofs since the 1980s, argues that turning all of the world’s roofs “light” over the next 20 years could save the equivalent of 24 billion metric tons in carbon dioxide emissions.

“That is what the whole world emitted last year,” Mr. Rosenfeld said. “So, in a sense, it’s like turning off the world for a year.”

This month the Waldreps’ three-bedroom house is consuming 10 percent less electricity than it did a year ago. (The savings would be greater if the family ran its central air during the workday.)

From Dubai to New Delhi to Osaka, Japan, reflective roofs have been embraced by local officials seeking to rein in energy costs. In the United States, they have been standard equipment for a decade at new Wal-Mart stores. More than 75 percent of the chain’s 4,268 outlets in the United States have them.

California, Florida and Georgia have adopted building codes that encourage white-roof installations for commercial buildings.

Drawing on federal stimulus dollars earmarked for energy-efficiency projects, state energy offices and local utilities often offer financing for cool roofs. The roofs can qualify for tax credits if the roofing materials pass muster with the Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star program.

Still, the ardor of the cool-roof advocates has prompted a bit of a backlash.

Some roofing specialists and architects argue that supporters fail to account for climate differences or the complexities of roof construction. In cooler climates, they say, reflective roofs can mean higher heating bills.

Scientists acknowledge that the extra heating costs may outweigh the air-conditioning savings in cities like Detroit or Minneapolis.

But for most types of construction, they say, light roofs yield significant net benefits as far north as New York or Chicago. Although those cities have cold winters, they are heat islands in the summer, with hundreds of thousands of square feet of roof surface absorbing energy.

The physics behind cool roofs is simple. Solar energy delivers both light and heat, and the heat from sunlight is readily absorbed by dark colors. (An asphalt roof in New York can rise to 180 degrees on a hot summer day.) Lighter colors, however, reflect back a sizable fraction of the radiation, helping to keep a building — and, more broadly, the city and Earth — cooler. They also re-emit some of the heat they absorb.

Unlike high-technology solutions to reducing energy use, like light-emitting diodes in lamp fixtures, white roofs have a long and humble history. Houses in hot climates have been whitewashed for centuries.

Before the advent of central air-conditioning in the mid-20th-century, white- and cream-colored houses with reflective tin roofs were the norm in South Florida, for example. Then central air-conditioning arrived, along with dark roofs whose basic ingredients were often asphalt, tar and bitumen, or asphalt-based shingles. These materials absorb as much as 90 percent of the sun’s heat energy — often useful in New England, but less so in Texas. By contrast, a white roof can absorb as little as 10 percent or 15 percent.

“Relative newcomers to the West and South brought a lot of habits and products from the Northeast,” said Joe Reilly, the president of American Rooftile Coatings, a supplier. “What you see happening now is common sense.”

Around the country, roof makers are racing to develop products in the hope of profiting as the movement spreads from the flat roofs of the country’s malls to the sloped roofs of its suburbs.

Years of detailed work by scientists at the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory have provided the roof makers with a rainbow of colors — the equivalent of a table of the elements — showing the amount of light that each hue reflects and the amount of heat it re-emits.

White is not always a buyer’s first choice of color. So suppliers like American Rooftile Coatings have used federal color charts to create “cool” but traditional colors, like cream, sienna and gray, that yield savings, though less than dazzling white roofs do.

In an experiment, the National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, Tenn., had two kinds of terra-cotta-colored cement tiles from American Rooftile installed on four new homes at the Fort Irwin Army base in California. One kind was covered with a special paint and reflected 45 percent of the sun’s rays — nearly twice as much as the other kind. The two homes with roofs of highly reflective paint used 35 percent less electricity last summer than the two with less reflective paint.

Still, William Miller of the Oak Ridge laboratory, who organized the experiment, says he distrusts the margin of difference; he wants to figure out whether some of it resulted from different family habits.

Hashem Akbari, Dr. Rosenfeld’s colleague at the Lawrence Berkeley laboratory, says he is unsure how long it will take cool roofs to truly catch on. But he points out that most roofs, whether tile or asphalt-shingle, have a life span of 20 to 25 years.

If the roughly 5 percent of all roofs that are replaced each year were given cool colors, he said, the country’s transformation would be complete in two decades.
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Buckminister Fuller Disciple’s Worthy Design Principles

The Visionary Thinking of John Todd
By Paul Makovsky

The winner of the Buckminster Fuller Challenge has a plan for Appalachia and it could be the design model of the future.

more @ http://www.metropolismag.com/cda/story.php?artid=3452
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Stimulus Package— How to Retrofit Your Home and Receive Big Tax Credits

President Obama’s new stimulus package is now signed into law. Here’s how it affects the green home owner:

1) New incentives and tax credits are now available for households for energy conservation and alternative energy. Homeowners investing in energy-saving insulation, replacement windows, duct seals, or high-efficiency heating and cooling systems can now receive a tax credit worth 30 percent of the upgrade cost (maximum credit value: $1,500). The previous tax credit was 10 percent of an upgrade cost, up to a maximum of $500.

2) If you have been thinking about switching to sustainable energy, now is the time. Solar panels, geothermal heat pumps, and windmills also qualify for a 30 percent tax credit. For example, a $24,000 investment to make a home solar-powered would generate a federal tax credit worth $7,200. Previously, the cap was $2,000 for geothermal and solar; $4,000 for wind. Add state and utility credits to this and consumers will see significant discounts in these purchases.

3) New hybrid cars now qualify for tax credits worth anywhere from $2,500 to $7,500, while plug-in conversion kits for old hybrids, now generate tax credits worth 10 percent of the kit’s cost (maximum credit value: $4,000).

For questions about home energy conservation and renewable energy options, you can contact a contractor trained by the federal Home Performance with Energy Star program http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=home_improvement.hm_improvement_hpwes. back to top

UW Solar Energy Lab.

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Your Starter Garden

article from: http://www.aarpmagazine.org/food/dirt_cheap_eats.html

Here is the plot as it might appear two months after spring planting. The key below mentions late crops such as lettuce and kale that you can plant in summer for a second harvest.

Easy Vegetables to Grow

Let your tastebuds be your guide

Alpine strawberriesBasilBeetsBroccoliCarrots
A perennial, everbearing type. Sow seeds indoors in early spring. Move the plants into the garden when they are large enough to handle, spacing them 12 inches apart.This herb lasts until frost if you keep cutting the tips so it doesn’t flower too much (leave some blooms for the bees). Tuck these outside the tomato cages.A bed of beets will give you greens all season, plus baby beets in early summer and large beets later. Grow them 3 inches apart in the row, or sow 1 inch apart and thin gradually.Look for varieties with good side-shoot production. They’ll continue to bear once the central head has been harvested. Close planting (12 inches apart) also favors side shoots.Sow in stone-free soil. Harvest throughout the summer, fall, and even winter. Grow both early and late crops, spacing rows 6 inches apart and plants 2 inches apart.
A few plants are enough. Even one will provide plenty for salads and sandwiches. Either trellis the plants, 12 inches apart, or let them sprawl, allowing 4 to 6 square feet per plant.Grow three crops, in spring, summer, and fall. In hot weather grow a resilient variety such as Jericho. Plant regular heads 12 inches apart; miniheads, 8 to 10 inches apart.Planting onion sets (dime-size onions) in spring is easy. Just poke them into the ground, 4 inches apart. After harvest, onions can be stored at room temperature.From a spring sowing, you can cut this herb all summer, fall, and even into winter. Tuck in a few plants outside the tomato cages.Nutritious to eat, but expensive to buy at your grocer. Grow some hot, some sweet, planting them 12 to 18 inches apart. Peppers need warmth even more than tomatoes do.
Pole beansSalad mixScallionsSugar snap peasSummer squash
These beans bear over a long season. On trellises, grow plants 6 inches apart. For single poles, set poles 18 inches apart, sowing 6 seeds at the base of each and thinning to 3.Seeds may include lettuces and greens such as arugula and mizuna. Sow them thickly and harvest often, cutting close to the ground whenever leaves reach 3 inches tall.These nonbulbing onions produce abundantly from seeds sown ½ inch apart. Or plant onion sets 2 inches apart and harvest every other one at scallion size.These are very high-yielding peas that you eat pod and all. Grow them on a trellis (or on a twiggy branch staked in the ground) with plants 3 to 4 inches apart.One or 2 plants are all you need if you pick every day or so to keep them coming. Allow about 9 square feet for the plant to sprawl.
Swiss chardTomatoesTuscan kale
One of the few greens that bears all summer long, and on into fall. Grow plants 10 inches apart, or sow more thickly and eat what you thin, as with beets.Just 2 plants will keep you in salads: 1 beefsteak and 1 cherry tomato. Add a paste tomato for making sauce. Plant them 2 to 3 feet apart. Use cages for support.You have to try this deep-blue-green kale to know how tender and delicious it is. Harvest all summer and fall. Space plants 12 inches apart in rows.

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Dairy Farmers Harness Wind Power

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Books Inspiring Urban Gardening

Per Erik L’s suggestion at the MUAN meeting tonight, here’s a blurb about the book that really inspired me into the urban gardening. It is “The Urban Homestead: Your Guide to Self-sufficient Living in the Heart of the City” by Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen. I first saw it in an article on boingboing.net, and one paragraph in particular caught my eye:

“Unlike many self-sufficiency books, this one isn’t preachy, unrealistic, or dogmatic. Instead, it’s honest and often humorous. Kelly and Erik (who run the Homegrown Evolution blog [http://www.homegrownevolution.com/]) are wonderfully lucid and accessible writers. They also walk the walk — I visited their Los Angeles home and spent a wonder couple of hours touring their abundant vegetable gardens and henhouse filled with clownlishly entertaining chickens.”

The way that I like to describe the book is that in essence, the authors say, “Hey! Check this out! This was really cool, and you can do it, too! Yeah, go!” Sometimes, the book is a little light on the details for things, but in this age of The Google, it’s ridiculously easy to find out specific HOWTO-style information. And as we are figuring out, it is far more effective and satisfying to work with each other rather than spend all our time typing stuff in to search engines.

What’s your motivating book? Or favorite book? Maybe one that got you started on urban gardening?
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Braise on the Go

Here’s the web address for David Swanson’s “Braise on the Go”, a traveling culinary school: www.braiseculinaryschool.com 414.241.9577

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Gathering Waters Festival.

Click here for the flyer

Kae DonLevy
Friends of Lakeshore State Park

”Journal” Article on Victory Garden Initiative’s Gretchen Mead

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Co-operative Housing Experiments USA

Here are some examples of other places where this has happened, from a talk I gave on sustainable neighborhoods in 2007 (they may have evolved further in the past 2 yrs):

N Street Cohousing (Davis, CA)

  • Started with 2 adjacent houses that took down their side fences in 1986

  • currently 19 houses (50 adults +14 kids)

  • Converted a garage to a common house (later rebuilt to be larger & handicapped accessible)

  • Mixture of homeowners and renters

  • Shared laundry room, workshop, play structures, etc.

  • Community gardens, chicken coop, composting

  • Rezoned as planned development in 1999

Temescal Creek (Oakland, CA)

  • Started with group of friends purchasing 3 adjacent duplexes

  • Ate twice a week in each other’s homes

  • Later bought 2 adjacent buildings

  • Eventually formed a condo association

  • Tore down a garage to build a common house

    • included additional housing unit, which brought each family’s contribution down to $23k

    • one of the residents acted as the general contractor

  • Shared storage space

  • Shared laundry facilities

San Mateo Ecovillage (SF Bay area, CA)

  • Purchased 2 adjacent 4-plexes

  • Permaculture/biodynamic gardens (orchards, greenhouse, chickens, etc.)

  • Shared meals

OnGoing Concerns (Portland, OR)

  • An inner city community’s response to gentrification

  • Bought 7 deteriorating homes, removed fences

  • Later added community space to one of the bldgs

  • Tool bank, food buying club, greywater system, etc.

Nicole Bickham
Live Local Milwaukee
a relocalization initiative of Paths to a Sustainable Future
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Aerobic vs. anaerobic composting…pure science…

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Good Books on Composting and Worms

Two indispensable books:

  • Diary of a Compost Hot Line Operator, Spring Gillard (particularly the essay “Shit!”) - she’s Canada’s green answer to David Sedaris in laugh power (plus there’s a lot of good advice in her books…);

  • Worms Eat My Garbage, Mary Appelhof. The classic.

  • You know, I don’t think there is a particularly good plain ol’ compost how-to book these days - the best was Easy Composting, Bob Kourik and Jeff Bell’s guide. You can still find that at http://www.alibris.com/search/books/author/Ortho%20Books, though.

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Andor’s Choice For An Interesting “How To” Website


Andor’s Recommendations for Links to Good Energy Sites


An overview of wind, solar, photovoltaic, alternative energy, with a lot of do it yourself projects,


A guy who designs and builds wind-power kits.

Earth Poet Founder Course “Literature of Ecological Vision”

Jeff Poniewaz, founder of the Earth Poets, is a brilliant and inspiring educator too!


Please let your UWM Undergrads or auditor friends know about this excellent course, endangered if we don’t win some more students.

“Literature of Ecological Vision”: Jeff Poniewaz will again teach his UWM off-campus course at the Urban Ecology Center (1500 E. Park Pl.) from 6:00 to 8:40 p.m. Tuesdays from Jan. 27 to May 12. This course explores some of the most inspiring key examples of Nature writing which also qualify as great literature. It will appeal to those who love Nature and are interested in ecology as well as to those who love great writing in general. A spectrum of writers will be read and discussed. From time to time, films will be shown that enhance appreciation of the readings. This Peace Studies-recommended introductory survey course (English 247, Lec 102) can be taken for degree credit or simply audited for enjoyment. For enrollment information, call 229–6209 between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. weekdays.
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For Profit Community Kitchens for Fresh Meals Socially Constructed

there is a new kind of food outlet going up around the country. It’s called the “meal preparation industry” and essentially, it is a community kitchen that allows people to come in and cook their meals together in a social atmosphere, with raw ingredients right there for purchase and immediate use. These are hugely popular, evidently, because they save vast amounts of time and money for busy moms and such.

So far as I know it’s all for-profit franchises, but something along these lines seems a natural adjunct to local foods efforts.

Paula Hay

You can read more about the idea here: http://blog.cleveland.com/business/2008/05/easymeal_prep_companies_carve.html

Where to find an easy-meal store in Northeast Ohio
Posted by Frank Bentayou May 21, 2008 Cleveland Plain Dealer

Denver business consultant Bert Vermeulen, founder of the Easy Meal Preparation Association, said that in the industry’s brief five-year history, it already has had its ups and downs.

But he’s convinced that, for the sake of convenience and quality, meal-assembly stores and services are here for the long haul and destined to grow.

He acknowledged that following an initial burst of energy, when national franchise operations opened coast to coast, interest and new stores plateaued in 2006 and 2007. Vermeulen predicts slow but steady growth over the next few years.

“It’s like the pizza industry, if you will,” Vermeulen said in a phone interview. “It’ll respond to the market and evolve. But I think the demand for easy meals the customers cook at home will only get stronger.”

It’s been getting stronger in Northeast Ohio.

Nancy Cusick and Cathy Bollin started Cooking Thyme in Westlake four years ago, the first easy-meal site in the state. Since then, more than a dozen have opened. At least two have failed in their first couple of years.

The Easy Meal Preparation Association lists these Northeast Ohio members:

  1. Cooking Thyme, 25076 Center Ridge Road, Westlake, 440–808–8808, cooking-thyme.com.
  2. Dinner Plans, 4659 Dressler Road N.W., Canton, 330–492–7526, yourdinnerplans.com.
  3. Dinners by the Dozen, 7205 N. Aurora Road, Aurora, 330–995–6512, dinnersbythedozen.com.
  4. DIY Dinners, 7995 Darrow Road, Twinsburg, 330–405–2808, diydinners.net.
  5. MealMakers, 29998 Detroit Road, Westlake, 440–835–2935, mealmakerswestlake.com.
  6. My Busy Day Gourmet, 133 E. Main St., Smithville, 330–669–2572, mybusydaygourmet.com.
  7. My Girlfriend’s Kitchen, 620 Ridgewood Crossings Drive, Copley Township, 330–665–1500, mgfk.com; 4234 Portage St. N.W., North Canton, 330–244–1521, mgfk.com.
  8. Pass Your Plate, 7537 Mentor Ave., Mentor, 440–942–7972, passyourplate.com.
  9. Super Suppers, 2100 Center Road, Avon, 440–934–2098, supersuppersavonoh.com; 7542 Fredle Drive, Concord Township, supersuppersconcordoh.com; 3735 StoneGate Drive, Medina, 330–722–4567, supersuppersmedina.com.

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Last edited by Tyler Schuster. Based on work by Godsil, Jennifer Torres, Shirley Krug, GerryBournelis, Olde and tyler schuster.  Page last modified on July 30, 2009

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