The White Roof Project

In the sim­ple act of paint your roof white, you could do a lot for keep­ing the planet to a rea­son­able tem­per­a­ture.

Element - - BUSINESS - By John Weekes To see a video pre­sen­ta­tion of Mon­tan­jees re­search, visit el­e­ment­magazine.co.nz and click on the ‘clean tech’ sec­tion.

Ever walked bare­foot across a black rooftop on a sunny day? Af­ter burn­ing your feet or swear­ing like a sailor, you would have ap­pre­ci­ated an in­sight Ian Mon­tan­jees had four years ago.

In 2008, the Mt Al­bert res­i­dent re­flected on the big is­sues fac­ing the planet, and won­dered what dif­fer­ence he could make.

The chal­lenges could seem over­whelm­ing, even to a man with de­grees in ar­chi­tec­tural stud­ies and en­gi­neer­ing. “I was think­ing that global warm­ing is the most sig­nif­i­cant is­sue fac­ing our civ­i­liza­tion in the coming years.”

Mon­tan­jees, who jok­ingly called him­self an “over-qual­i­fied handy­man”, saw prom­ise in a sim­ple so­lu­tion.

As he thought about how po­lar ice caps re­flected sun­light back into space and cooled the planet, a so­lu­tion closer to home came to mind. With par­al­lels in overseas ini­tia­tives, the White Roofs Project was con­ceived.

The colour that worked won­ders on the rugby field didn’t do New Zealand’s cities, cli­mate, or en­ergy bills many favours. Con­cen­tra­tions of tar­mac and dark roofs of­ten made cities hot­ter than the sur­round­ing coun­try­side. But white, off-white, or cool-coloured roofs could be up to 35 de­grees Cel­sius cooler than dark ones, help­ing to counter ur­ban heat is­land ef­fects. In large cities, such as New York, tem­per­a­tures are al­ways a few de­grees warmer than the sur­round­ing coun­try­side. White roofs also help busi­nesses slash air-con­di­tion­ing bills. Of­fi­cially launch­ing the project in Oc­to­ber 2010, Mon­tan­jees set up a web­site, spoke to busi­ness peo­ple, and tried to raise aware­ness with coun­cils about white roofs. He had some break­throughs. Re­sene set up a 30% dis­count for peo­ple want­ing to paint their roofs in cool colours (avail­able through a dis­count let­ter from Mon­tan­jees’ web­site - whiteroofs.org.nz). But Mon­tan­jees was work­ing odd jobs to pay the bills while fi­nanc­ing and pur­su­ing his pas­sion. “Up to now, it’s been vol­un­tary and in my spare time. I funded it my­self,” Mon­tan­jees said. He’s now look­ing to get more peo­ple in­volved in the project’s next stage, an 18-month White Roofs cam­paign. “So far I’ve got about half the spon­sor­ship re­quired to be­gin it. I need about six com­pa­nies each putting in around $5000.” Re­sene, Colorsteel and Me­tal­craft Roof­ing were on board, leav­ing space for at least three more spon­sors. Mon­tan­jees says a good tar­get for the whiten­ing of New Zealand roofs is about one third, as 75% of new com­mer­cial roofs built in the last 20 years are white al­ready, but it is not yet a trend on houses. Stud­ies show that 100 square me­tres of flat white roof can­cels the global warm­ing of roughly 10 tonnes of CO2 emis­sions. If one third of New Zealand roofs – ap­prox­i­mately 200 mil­lion square me­tres – were made white or off white, then that would equate to tak­ing up to 70,000 cars off the road for the 20-year life­time of the paint, as well as re­duc­ing emis­sions from power gen­er­a­tion through less air con­di­tion­ing use.

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