The Urban Heat Island Effect

/ / Roof damage

Chances are good that you have at least heard of the term, “urban heat island”. It applies to just about all urban areas but is particularly applicable in cities like New Orleans and Baton Rouge, where human activities, building density, and a naturally hot and humid environment combine to create serious problems.

According to the US EPA, the term heat island “describes built up areas that are hotter than nearby rural ones.” What creates that heat? There are some relatively obvious sources – the use of HVAC systems, vehicle traffic on the roads, and the like. However, there are also some less obvious reasons.

For example, buildings constructed in close proximity to one another, the way they are in most urban areas, will trap and retain heat. Combine that with the heat-retaining capabilities of asphalt and concrete, steel, gravel and greenhouse gases, and you have a recipe for heat levels that do not dissipate much, even after the sun sets.

The Problem with Urban Heat Islands

There are numerous issues caused by the urban heat island effect. One of those is the obvious increase in ambient temperatures, which actually drives further use of air conditioning systems, which creates more heat, ultimately forming a cyclical pattern that feeds itself. This in and of itself is dangerous. The CDC notes that there were 8,000 premature deaths in the US from 1979 to 2003 due to excess heat alone.

Another problem created by the urban heat island effect is reduced air quality. Increased pollutants in the air mean that the quality is dramatically reduced in comparison to the surrounding suburban and rural areas. This includes an increase in pollutants like sulfur dioxide, NOx, carbon monoxide, and even mercury.

Water quality is also reduced. This is due to the increase in temperature, which often encourages bacterial growth, as well as placing additional stress on native species that are acclimated to a cooler environment.

The heat island effect drives further consumption of energy to fuel air conditioning units, but also increases the consumption of other sources of energy. For instance, automobiles see reduced fuel economy in hotter temperatures. Commercial coolers and freezers must work harder to keep their contents protected in higher temperatures.

How Can Your Choice of Commercial Roof Help?

The urban heat island effect poses danger to human beings and wildlife in urban areas. It drives increased resource consumption, reduces air quality, and compromises water quality. However, can it be addressed in a realistic manner? Actually, it can. There are many solutions that can play a role in addressing the issue.

Commercial and Industrial Roofing: One of the single most common underlying causes of heat retention in urban areas is the use of dark roofing materials on buildings. Reroofing with lighter colored materials, the use of green roofs (gardens and similar installations) and similar tactics can reduce the urban heat island effect by a significant amount. In fact, replacing dark roofing with cooler roofing options is the least energy and money intensive mitigation method currently available.

Sidewalks and Roadways: Another way to reduce the urban heat island effect is to increase the adoption of light-colored concrete and asphalt for use in the construction of roadways and sidewalks.

Additional Trees and Greenways: Planting additional trees along city streets and in parks, as well as the construction of greenways can also have a positive impact on heat levels in urban areas both by reducing heat absorption, as well as by absorbing carbon dioxide, which itself retains heat.

As you can see, the urban heat island effect has serious repercussions, but you can do your part to decrease this effect when you choose Juneau Odenwald Roofing for your Commercial Roofing needs!

Juneau Odenwald Roofing provides commercial roofing services in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, as well as throughout Louisiana. We offer a full line of commercial roofing maintenance, repairs & new installations. If your commercial building is suffering the effects of The Urban Heat Island Effect, contact us for your free estimate today!