THE BLOG

White Roof, Low Energy

05/22/2015 08:56 pm ET | Updated May 22, 2016

The White Roof Project does one, simple thing: It coats buildings' roofs with a paint-like, white, reflective coating. Traditional roofing materials (like black tar), convert sunlight to heat -- dramatically raising the interior temperatures and increasing cooling costs. Coating a roof white reflects the sunlight, drastically reducing its temperature and that of the building's interior and surrounding environment.

Building roofs with interior temperature in mind is not a new idea; sod-thatched roofs in Europe, for instance, have been around for centuries. But in recent years, people have turned their attention to roof modification as a way to potentially reduce man-made climate change. White Roof Project founder Juan Carlos and board member Heather James first heard of the potential for white coatings at a Sierra Club meeting. After organizing just one painting event, which attracted more than 100 volunteers, they formed the nonprofit. The White Roof Project focuses on buildings with low-income residents -- coating them for free using private donations and teams of volunteers. One challenge, says volunteer Geoff Brock, is that since it's the tenants -- not the building owners themselves -- that are usually the beneficiaries of reduce cooling costs, it takes a forward-looking landlord to get behind the idea. But as environmental and energy awareness grows, more people are realizing that sometimes it is the simple solutions that can create the most tangible change