Focus on Sustainability: Phoenix Cool Roofs

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The city of Phoenix has started a project to paint 70,000 square feet of rooftops white to cut energy costs and greenhouse gas emissions. Over the next year, an army of volunteers will paint rooftops at community centers, fire stations and housing communities as part of a $100,000 service grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies. Cynthia Aguilar, of the Phoenix Manager’s Office, will talk about the Cool Roofs project.

Ted Simons: In tonight's focus on sustainability, we look at the city of Phoenix Cool Roof Project. It's a program designed to cut energy costs and greenhouse gas emissions. For more, we welcome Cynthia Aguilar of the Phoenix managers office, and Colin Tretreault, of the sustainability advisor for the mayor's office. Colin, I almost got that name right. I came so close.

Colin Tretreault: It's OK, ever since first grade.

Ted Simons: I bet. Let's talk about the cool roof project. What exactly is this?

Cynthia Aguilar: It's a brand-new volunteer initiative in the city of Phoenix that's going to engage over 300 volunteers and essentially coating over 70,000 square feet of city rooftops between now and January of 2014.

Ted Simons: These are city buildings?

Cynthia Aguilar: They are.

Ted Simons: How do you decide which buildings to coat?

Cynthia Aguilar: There are several criteria. Safety for volunteers, condition of the roof, where we will really get the most money for the bang if you will.

Ted Simons: We're looking at folks right now, they're basically putting white paint on the top of roofs, it makes sense. It reflects the sun.

Colin Tretreault: Absolutely. It makes great sense. It's a business decision, it's a smart decision from a sustainability perspective and for the environment as well.

Ted Simons: Community centers, fire stations, all sorts of city buildings involved?

Colin Tretreault: Absolutely. We're looking at a wide array of buildings.

Ted Simons: How much energy saved do you think?

Colin Tretreault: It will depend on the facility, but you can look on 10-15%. Upward to 20% just by the reflective coating.

Ted Simons: I keep hearing greenhouse gas emissions are at play as well. How do you cut down by painting a rooftop white?

Colin Tretreault: The sun comes down, what that does is the white roof reflects the heat up off the roof. By doing such it reduces the load and need for the air conditioners to run on a regular basis. You don't run your air conditioner as much, you don't use as much electricity, don't produce as many greenhouse gas emissions.

Ted Simons: Who is going to do all the work?

Cynthia Aguilar: Hundreds of volunteers. The city of Phoenix is partnering with hands on greater Phoenix and we're currently recruiting, we have a project this weekend coming up and we'll be doing several more throughout the year.

Ted Simons: City workers are going to be involved a little bit?

Cynthia Aguilar: Yes. There are several city departments, the planning and development department, public works. So it is really a team effort.

Ted Simons: What kind of costs? A roof, just give us a general cost of painting a roof white.

Cynthia Aguilar: We did a 5,000 square foot senior center, and I'd say their approximate cost was about $700 in material.

Ted Simons: In material and occasional folks from the city helping out.

Cynthia Aguilar: Correct.

Ted Simons: How -- Give us a timetable. When did it start, how long does it go on?

Colin Tretreault: The city of Phoenix has been a leader in sustainability for many years. In until now we've painted over 500,000 square feet of our city facilities white. And we're looking forward in the next year to do another 700,000 square feet, paint white, reduce energy and be a smart environmental steward as well.

Ted Simons: When you paint white, we touched on this earlier, it not only coats the roof and reflects the sun, but it keeps the nice cool air from escaping.

Colin Tretreault: That's right. So it helps the building portfolio, but it also helps us address something called the urban heat island effect, which is particularly impactful in relevant to the Phoenix area.

Ted Simons: Indeed. A grant from bloomberg philanthropies, talk to us about this.

Cynthia Aguilar: Last year the city of Phoenix was awarded a grant from the cities of service, which is a nonprofit coalition to essentially launch volunteer initiatives throughout the country.

Ted Simons: More grants likely down the pike or how is this going to work?

Cynthia Aguilar: Yes. It's the impact volunteering fund, and later this summer they'll be announcing a new round of grants.

Ted Simons: Was this based on any other cities doing this, or did you look at other communities, municipalities and say, we can do this?

Colin Tretreault: Great question. Certainly there are other fantastic cities doing fantastic sustainability work. But this is an imperative of I think the city manager and Mayor Stanton in order to view sustainability as a great opportunity to push our city forward from an innovation and economic perspective as well.

Ted Simons: So were there other models out there? It seemed there would be.

Cynthia Aguilar: This is being modeled after the city of New York, hence Mayor Bloomberg's involvement to try to promote this. This year Phoenix and Pittsburgh are launching this for the first time.

Ted Simons: I would imagine the sun -- The sun reflecting off roofs in Phoenix will make a bigger difference than Pittsburgh and New York. Thanks for joining us.

Cynthia Aguilar:Phoenix Manager's Office; Colin Tretreault, Mayor's Office Advisor

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