Were you aware of LA City “Cool Roof” ordinance?

12-16-languagelistinLA’s ‘cool roof’ mandate removes some green from homeowners’ wallets
Before former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa left office in 2013, he decided what color your new roof can be.

In March of that year, Villaraigosa attended the “Hot City, Cool Roofs” Conference held by the nonprofit advocacy group, Climate Resolve. The conference was aimed at making “great strides towards creating affordable climate solutions.”

The idea behind “cool roofs” is that light colors reflect the sun’s energy, while dark colors “capture” the sun’s energy and contribute to the “urban heat island effect,” the tendency of cities to be warmer than neighboring areas that have more greenery and less pavement.

Climate Resolve said a “key takeaway” from the conference was that a law should be passed to require all new and refurbished homes to have a cool roof.

And in December, 2013, the Los Angeles City Council unanimously passed that law.

It kicked in this year, as you may know if you are in the market for a new roof. One Valley resident was dismayed to find out that she had a choice of six unappealing colors and it was going to cost an extra $3,000 for a “cool roof” on her 1,400-square-foot house.

“The cool roofs are about 30 percent higher in price,” explains Steve Pinkus, president and CEO of Royal Roofing & Solar in Los Angeles and a licensed roofing contractor for 35 years.

It’s partly a supply-and-demand problem, and partly due to the cost of research, development and manufacturing.

So homeowners in the city of Los Angeles are stuck paying thousands of dollars extra for a new roof, and their color choices are pretty much limited to white, off-white, pale gray, greenish, reddish-orange and tan.

That’s not going over very well with some clients, Pinkus said. Manufacturers are working right now to develop richer colors that can meet the reflective standard required by the Los Angeles city building code.

Is this accomplishing anything?

“Keeping temperatures down on extreme heat days will protect lives,” said Climate Resolve’s executive director, Jonathan Parfrey, after the City Council passed the new law. He said the improved energy efficiency will save millions of dollars, and cool roofs “will help Los Angeles combat global climate change at the local level.”

Is there any research to back that up?

A UCLA study in 2011 said the widespread use of cool roofs in Los Angeles would reduce air pollution, cut energy costs, and combat climate change. The study was titled, “Bright roofs, big city: Keeping L.A. cool through an aggressive cool-roof program.”

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But that study was produced by UCLA Law School, not UCLA Physical Sciences. It recommended law and policy strategies to force speedier adoption of cool roofs.

A recent study in Chicago by the University of Notre Dame’s Environmental Change Initiative looked at the effect of cool roofs and also “green roofs,” which are covered with plants and grass. Researchers found that while green and cool roofs did reduce the “urban heat island effect,” they also caused changes in regional air circulation and reduced breezes from Lake Michigan. Some areas of the city were cooler than before, but other areas were warmer, and air quality was affected.

The researchers recommended that planners think carefully about where cool roofs are sited.

Unfortunately, the city of Los Angeles has not mandated careful thinking, just cool roofs, and they’re 30 percent more expensive.

Rebates of 20-30 cents per square foot may be available from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power for cool roof purchases. Or maybe not. According to the DWP website: “Funding is limited and rebates are not guaranteed. This program shall at all times be subject to change or termination without notice.” (Rebate link)

They’re probably hoping you won’t notice that your ratepayer dollars are paying for it.

Steve Pinkus said he thinks the cool roof products are a great improvement in the industry, long overdue. And the Notre Dame researchers concluded that green and cool roofs are “excellent choices” to reduce the urban heat island effect when used together with other strategies—such as adding more lawns.

So the rebate for tearing out your lawn caused an urban heat island effect that now has to be fixed with a rebate for a cool roof.

This is another example of government mandates driving up costs without any accountability for whether the promised results are actually achieved, or even possible. It’s just arrogant for elected officials to force homeowners to be academic lab rats and to pay thousands of dollars for the privilege.
Article courtesy of Susan Shelly