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White Roofs, Green Buildings & LED lighting

When climate change gets mentioned, the main factors that are discussed about its cause and mitigation are mainly cars and changing to all electric transportation, nonrenewable resources, and the switch to renewable and materials for recycling waste. Buildings are machines when you take into consideration what they contain and how they’re built, it’s not surprising to learn they emit 40% of all greenhouse gases. Other than the mechanical equipment that uses energy so does the construction and the materials that make up the building which are taken into consideration to meet sustainability in the form of providing something that won’t cause any problems in the future. Renewable sources for construction are mass timber or engineered wood frame construction instead of concrete, which is a contributor to CO2 and the manufacturing process results in extensive pollution. Material finished indoors contributes to the air quality that gets changed into the building and what goes out into the atmosphere. New mechanical systems that save energy like HVAC systems for air control and use of windows for sunlight save the energy that the building takes up with the added source of energy is uses is also a positive.

Water usage is another factor which is beneficial in green buildings that send wastewater to treatment plants instead of the sewage that brings waste to the rivers. Overall, the factors of alternative green buildings contribute much less greenhouse gases especially recycling  air and water.

Many roofs on older buildings were coated with asphalt and are more prone to absorbing heat and radiation. This factor contributed to an “urban heat island effect” where the city has more heat than the surrounding countryside of rural biodiversity. This was the contribution of the dark colored asphalt roofs and roads that were used in the 19th and 20th centuries. White roofs are proven to lower the average temperature in urban areas as the lighter the surface the higher the reflectivity of radiation with small amounts of heat setting through the roof membrane. Also given the name cool roofs due to the ability to reflect heat and absorb less. Fred Pierce from Yale.edu says, “…even if every city building roof and stretch of urban pavement in the world were painted white, it would only delay global warming by 11 years. But its potential value in ameliorating the most severe consequences of excess heat in cities could be life-saving.”  The additional expansion of urbanization and new buildings that get built have influence in the roof type for delaying climate change. Even roads in major cities are being considered to get painted in white or light gray colors to prevent the heat setting into the dark asphalt, as seen in Los Angeles.

Lighting is always a factor of building design and every building needs it for the nightlight. These also contribute to approximately 5% of all greenhouse gas emissions due to the kerosine powered and incandescent lighting systems that use a lot of energy as well as fluorescent lighting which is more efficient. LED lighting or light emitting diodes are more efficient than any of the mentioned lighting types as they use less energy for creating light instead and by that creating less heat which decreases the temperature of indoors and the need for air conditioning. Theclimategroup.org says, “Compared to the old technologies. A global switch to energy efficient LED technology could save over 1,400 million tons of CO2 and avoid the construction of 1250 power stations.” LED lighting can also be powered by solar panels to use electrical energy.



“How Green Buildings Can Help Fight Climate Change.” U.S. Green Building Council, https://www.usgbc.org/articles/how-green-buildings-can-help-fight-climate-change#.

Fred Pearce • March 7, et al. “Urban Heat: Can White Roofs Help Cool World’s Warming Cities?” Yale E360, https://e360.yale.edu/features/urban-heat-can-white-roofs-help-cool-the-worlds-warming-cities#:~:text=Oleson%20found%20that%20even%20if,cities%20could%20be%20life%2Dsaving.

Droguett, Research Fellows: Barbara Rodriguez. “LED Lighting @Projectdrawdown #Climatesolutions.” Project Drawdown, 17 Feb. 2023, https://drawdown.org/solutions/led-lighting.

“Led.” Climate Group, https://www.theclimategroup.org/led.

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