RoofViews

In Your Community

Helping to Mitigate Urban Heat Islands with GAF StreetBond® Pavement Coatings

By Annie Crawford

July 11, 2023

GAF StreetBond® pavement coating in green, white, and blue brightens parking area and diverts heat.

Around the globe, excess heat collects in urban areas and can contribute to increased heat-related death and illness, diminished quality of life, and reduced economic opportunities. Such areas are known as "urban heat islands." Fortunately, cooling strategies are now available and being used in initiatives like the GAF Cool Community project to help mitigate urban heat island effects. Such cooling strategies are supported by products such as such as GAF StreetBond® pavement coatings with Invisible Shade™ — named by TIME magazine as one of its Best Inventions of 2022.

Understanding Heat Islands

You can envision urban heat islands as heat-saturated sponges spread out across vast, shimmering urban spaces. These "islands" tend to have minimal shady vegetation, so their blacktop and hard surfaces — such as pavements, parking lots, concrete recreation areas, and roofs — absorb and retain the sun's heat well into the evening. HEAT.gov explains that temperatures in urban heat islands can be 15–20°F hotter than in equivalent vegetated areas. In technical terms, darker surfaces have a low albedo effect — that is, the ability to reflect and diffuse the sun's rays back to the upper atmosphere. This means highly reflective, snow-covered regions such as the Arctic have high albedo, while dark, tarmac-covered cities have low albedo, which leads to increased heat retention.

Densely packed buildings compound a low albedo effect by preventing cooling breezes from lowering temperatures. And to top it all off, heat islands can trap waste heat from cars, air conditioners, and other heat-emitting devices — exacerbating the effects. In terms of detrimental environmental impacts, this is the perfect, overheated, storm.

L.A.'s Pacoima neighborhood is one example of a community hit hard by heat. Undoubtedly a true urban heat island, it is consistently one of the city's hottest areas: one summer afternoon, Bloomberg News reported a pavement temperature of 127°F at noon — which rose to 141.8°F just one hour later. In addition, many of Pacoima's residents are in lower-income brackets and living in spaces that have not been fully optimized to mitigate heat island effects. According to Miguel Angel Luna, president of Urban Semillas, Pacoima residents are right "on the front line of climate change." Urban Semillas is an L.A.-based social and environmental justice consultancy working with grassroots organizations such as Pacoima Beautiful on the GAF Cool Community Project in the area.

Breaking Down Why Urban Heat Islands Matter

More than 80% of Americans live in urban areas, where urban heat islands are most prevalent. Extreme heat has been the greatest weather-related cause of death in the US for the last 30 years, according to Forbes. Roughly 12,000 Americans died prematurely from extreme heat between 2010 and 2020, with Native American and Black communities disproportionately affected.

And within those urban areas, it is the lower-income neighborhoods — often with fewer trees or other cooling interventions — that tend to be hardest hit. For example, Bloomberg noted that during days of extreme temperatures, Pacoima had seven times the number of excess heat emergency room visits (19,000 between 2009 and 2018) compared with nearby Santa Monica in L.A., an affluent community of similar size.

Economic sectors, such as tourism and local business, also feel the urban heat island effect. Pacoima food truck vendor Jennifer Ramirez can't start work until outdoor and street temperatures have cooled slightly. Otherwise, she explained to Bloomberg News, her food truck generator could blow out combating the oppressive daytime heat. As Melanie Torres of Pacoima Beautiful observes, Pacoima's built-up, sparsely vegetated streets and parks don't "give us the chance to experience fresh weather, or cool weather at all."

Shifting from Urban Heat Islands to Cool Communities

The GAF Cool Community project in Pacoima addresses the complex issue of urban heating with a beautifully simple solution. Take a hot, sun-exposed community with an abundance of heat-retaining hard surfaces. Then, apply colorful, solar-reflective coating to its streets and public hardscaping. The result? Cooler pavement temperatures.

Community applying StreetBond

The solar reflective coating — StreetBond pavement coatings with Invisible Shade™ technology — can help reduce surface temperatures by between 10°–12°F in the heat of the day. This could ultimately reduce ambient temperatures around Pacoima, explained Jeff Terry, Vice President of Sustainability at GAF, to Forbes.

Making Progress on Cooling Pacoima

Over 700,000 square feet have been coated with StreetBond® solar-reflective epoxy acrylic coating over a 10-block area. An attractive, colorful mural of solar-reflective materials covers the park area, and blue-and-white StreetBond® brightens the public basketball court. The formerly dark streets are now a cool grey-blue.

StreetBond on a basketball court

Over 12 months, the project will track pavement and air temperatures using sensors, satellite technology, and drones. The second project phase may also include cool roofs. The goal of the project is to determine whether these cooling strategies can help reduce overall ambient temperatures outdoors and offset high indoor temperatures caused by a lack of air conditioning in the Pacoima community.

GAF and its partners aim to improve the lives of the roughly 2,000 people in the half-mile project range, plus have the solutions — including what Jeff Terry sees as a "complete community approach" that involves residents and local organizations — which serves as a model for cities around the world. In addition to urban beautification and heat reduction, GAF StreetBond® can help preserve pavement. In turn, longer-lasting pavement can save cities time, money, and resources and gives them another tool to help mitigate the impacts of climate change.

Starting at Home

Whether urban or rural, all communities can use technology to help reduce indoor and outdoor temperatures. Some cooling strategies that can be effective across cities or in your own home include:

  • Cool surfaces: Surfaces treated with solar-reflective coatings can help reduce heat absorption and lower street temperatures. Plus, products such as StreetBond® come in a range of colors to beautify urban areas.
  • Solar shingles: Business and residential roofs can benefit from solar shingles such as the Timberline Solar™ roofing system. Solar shingles generate solar energy, helping to reduce reliance on overburdened energy grids and lower utility bills — all while maintaining the streamlined look of an architectural shingle roof.*
  • Cool roofs: Solar reflective shingles like Timberline® CS Shingles may save homeowners an average of 7%–15% on their total cooling costs.** This cooling technology minimizes a building's solar heat gain by reflecting incoming sun rays and re-emitting the absorbed energy.

Ready to get started in your neighborhood? Check out the inspiring community improvement projects at streetbond.com. (A division of GAF, StreetBond® offers the same quality and reliability customers have come to rely on from North America's largest roofing and waterproofing manufacturer.)


* Savings will vary and are not guaranteed. Incentives and eligibility requirements vary and availability is not guaranteed.

** Potential for savings depends on various factors including, but not limited to, climate zone, utility rates, location, and HVAC equipment efficiency.

About the Author

Annie Crawford is a freelance writer in Oakland, CA, covering travel, style, and home improvement. Find more of her work at annielcrawford.com.

Related Articles

Plants, community service and volunteering group in park, garden and nature for sustainable environm
In Your Community

GAF Community Contractor Program Celebrates Success in Seattle

When communities come together, incredible things happen. That's exactly the case in the city of Seattle, Washington, where the GAF Community Contractor Program has made lasting impacts on those in need through partnerships with Habitat for Humanity and ReBuilding Together. Both nonprofit organizations focus on working with homeowners to build new homes and revitalize communities in need of rebuilding, respectively.GAF's partnership with Habitat for Humanity began in 2011. From the start, it felt like a natural pairing. Habitat for Humanity's vision of "building strength, stability and self-reliance in partnership with families in need of decent and affordable housing" aligns perfectly with GAF's commitment to building resiliency in communities across the U.S.GAF recently became involved in ReBuilding Together in the Pacific Northwest through GAF Territory Manager Donovan Gladstone, whose involvement with the board of Roofing Contractors Association of Washington created an opportunity for community partnership. ReBuilding Together's mission of "repairing homes, revitalizing communities, rebuilding lives" is an excellent fit with GAF's commitment to helping neighbors.Helping Contractors Support their CommunitiesGAF invests in the areas where it has manufacturing operations, aiming to lift up the communities where team members live and work. This ideal extends to the GAF Community Contractor Program, where GAF certified contractors can partner with GAF and give back through the following initiatives:GAF Habitat for Humanity Program. With over 1,500 local Habitat for Humanity affiliates in the U.S., GAF-certified contractors can partner with their local chapter to provide the labor to install fully-donated GAF roofing systems. Volunteers don't work alone. Homeowners invest hundreds of hours of their own labor into building their Habitat house.GAF Affordable Housing Reroof Program. This initiative encourages contractors to partner with any 501c3 nonprofit organization in their community for a reroof project, for which GAF will donate the shingles.GAF Roofs for Heroes. GAF-certified contractors can partner with a local 501c3 to perform roof repairs or replacements for local heroes. These heroes include healthcare workers, first responders, veterans, police, fire, and EMTs.As part of the Community Contractor Program's progress in Washington state, more than 20 GAF certified contractors were able to provide over 100 new roofs to those in need of a new roof in the Seattle region, working with Habitat for Humanity and ReBuilding Together. "Giving back is at the core of what GAF does, but bringing in and partnering with our contractors is something that makes us unique," explains GAF Director of Corporate Social Responsibility Arlene Marks.Celebrating Giving Back While Giving Back AgainMarks and Gladstone wanted to host an event to thank the contractors who donated their time and labor to install those roofs and came up with a unique and fun way to extend the spirit of giving through Welcome Home Toolkits. "This was Arlene's idea, and it was such a great one," Gladstone notes.Marks shares, "We try to make all of our events meaningful, so what was the best way that we could reach back out to these homeowners that we've already helped? The Welcome Home Kits were the answer."The contractors attending the event assembled toolkits containing basic items like screwdrivers, nut drivers, adjustable wrenches, pliers, hammers, safety glasses, and more. The kits also include a video message of encouragement from the program participants.Most of the individuals who are helped through the roof donations are first-time homeowners. Accordingly, many don't have the basic tools needed to maintain their homes. The gift of a Welcome Home Toolkit provides so much more than drivers and wrenches, it offers confidence, resilience, and peace of mind.Building Community Among ContractorsIncredible things happen when communities come together—not only for the recipients of the donations, but for the participants as well. GAF-certified contractors in the Seattle region came together to give back to the community while building new professional relationships and friendships at the same time."You're bringing together like-minded people," Marks notes. "While they are competitors in the field, they already have the compassion to help their communities. It was an opportunity to work together toward a common goal to meet, share ideas, and talk about the market in a very safe and non-competitive environment."Impacting the CommunityA representative from Habitat for Humanity attended the appreciation event in Seattle to say thank you and share how much of an impact ReBuilding Together and the contractors' work have had on the community. The Welcome Home Toolkits were provided to both organizations and have gone a long way toward welcoming and inspiring the new homeowners.Looking to get involved in giving back to your community? Visit the GAF Community Matters page to explore different opportunities and get started.

By Authors Karen L Edwards

March 01, 2024

Team Rubicon Greyshirt volunteers in action
In Your Community

Becoming a Team Rubicon Greyshirt—An Enlightening and Humbling Experience

Team Rubicon, as noted on their website, "serves communities by mobilizing veterans to continue their service, leveraging their skills and experience to help people prepare, respond, and recover from disasters and humanitarian crises." So when the opportunity came to become a Team Rubicon Greyshirt and help people in need in the wake of recent natural disasters, the choice was obvious. I joined Team Rubicon (TR) with several colleagues after their initial visit to GAF's site in Ennis, Texas back in May of 2019. I didn't know at the time what TR was truly about, but I knew that I would enjoy hanging with veterans and providing hands-on assistance directly to others in immediate need. Both of these experiences were enlightening for me and humbling, to say the least. Helping in Houston Our first operation in 2019 sent us to the FOB (forward operating base) in Houston for rebuilds still ongoing from Hurricane Harvey. It had been two years since the hurricane, and it seemed almost unfathomable that there was still a need for this kind of help. This mission had been going on for well over a year—as we found out, not all homeowners have insurance, and there are more people out there than we might think that take advantage of the already weakened and oppressed posing as construction contractors. The neighborhood smelled of must and mildew. My teammate and I learned the Dos and Don'ts of tape and bedding of sheetrock for this second-generation family home. Working with vets, listening to them, and watching how they give respect to one another was awesome. These folks know some things we civilians may never know. Later on, several of us went on a single-day operation—following a tornado that went through Dallas—to an elderly woman's home that sustained significant tree and roof damage. She was very thankful and appreciative of the effort, as she had no living family. By the time that day was over, all 11 teammates were exhausted but satisfied with the day's work. A Hurricane During a Pandemic The last TR tour, earlier this year, was Operation Crying Eagle in Orange, Texas. The area was recovering from Hurricane Laura, which had landed on August 20, and there was a huge need for roof tarpings, mucking (clearing debris), and sawyer detail (chainsawing). Since we were in the middle of a pandemic, the restrictions to work in teams were seriously spelled out and audited. There were 68 men and women coming together to help from all areas of the country—from San Diego to the Carolinas to Massachusetts. Each day began with a 6 a.m. wake-up call, followed by breakfast and then safety discussions at 7:15 from several leaders. We'd then break out into assigned Greyshirt teams, with each team assigned an observer to ensure we followed our COVID-related guidelines. From there, every Greyshirt got their daily assignments with one thing in mind: 'Get ***t done.' Our Greyshirt team roofed and mucked homes for folks that did not have the means or physical ability to do it on their own. We completed work on about three homes per day. Homeowners were always very grateful to TR and the work we were on hand to provide. Beyond the work itself, I took away several memories from these experiences. It was very fulfilling to know that you are helping people in need through a time that they had no control over. We felt very secure knowing that the voluntary leadership puts top priority on our safety as we "step into the arena." There was good fellowship with different people, all volunteering for the same purpose: to lift others up. And at the end of each day, we had a post-dinner debrief to discuss the accomplishments, objectives, and challenges of each team. We all took the chance to unwind after a hard, rewarding day's work. This was fun, challenging work where the motto was, "Everyone has a role. Know yours." Team Rubicon is a diamond class organization held together by volunteers—veterans and civilians—and respect at its core. For anyone who has the chance, I would say: Step into the arena! If you're interested in getting involved, visit Team Rubicon's website to learn more and sign up to volunteer and earn your Greyshirt.

By Authors Randy Brumley

January 25, 2024

Carter Work Project team in front of house
In Your Community

Teaming Up to Build Skills and Shelter for the 2023 Carter Work Project

Work is getting underway in Greater Charlotte, North Carolina, as GAF supports Habitat for Humanity with the 2023 Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project. The five-day build event began in 1984 when former President Jimmy Carter and former first lady Rosalyn Carter led a group of Habitat for Humanity volunteers to New York, building alongside 19 families in need of safe, affordable housing. For 36 years, the Carters have worked side by side with professional builders and volunteers at locations around the world to build and raise awareness of affordable housing.From October 1st - 6th, more than 750 volunteers will cooperatively build 27 safe, affordable homes in Charlotte, where the homeownership rate of 26% falls far below the county average of 57%. A strong contingent of GAF team members will comprise the volunteer workforce, and the company is lending support in several other ways.Working Together to Build Better CommunitiesSince 2011, GAF has proudly partnered with Habitat for Humanity. For the 2023 Carter Work Project, GAF donated the roofing materials for all the homes built, offered training prior to the event, and will provide leadership while the work is being completed."We're focused on helping build more resilient communities, by making workforces, affordable homes, and ultimately families more resilient," says Jeff Terry, GAF vice president of corporate social responsibility and sustainability.The Carter Work Project has touched thousands of lives over the last few decades and means so much to all involved. "To know that we're making a small dent in the housing affordability crisis is something very near and dear to my heart," Hailey Von Dross, youth and young adult engagement coordinator for Habitat for Humanity of Charlotte, shared at a recent training session in Charlotte.Helping Leaders Grow While Doing GoodIn July, the high heat was no match for the great attitudes at the two-day, hands-on, on-the-roof training hosted by GAF CARE (Center for Advancement of Roofing Excellence) to prepare for October's construction work. The house and crew leaders who attended the GAF CARE training will use the roofing skills they learned to guide Carter Work Project volunteers and workers in proper shingle installation.Training these building leaders was a "really exciting opportunity" for the GAF CARE team, says Terry. "It ultimately gives them the tools to make these homes more resilient for the partner families who will be working alongside all of us and ultimately getting the keys to these homes."The GAF CARE training can also help shape future community leaders. Rachel Hurst, an AmeriCorps volunteer working with Habitat for Humanity, says, "GAF is here helping us learn the proper way to shingle a roof. It's actually really cool. It's really rewarding and shows volunteers that they have the ability to create something."The transformative power of these homes should not be underestimated. For example, Adam Hunter, new construction field manager for Habitat for Humanity of Charlotte, took a break from the GAF CARE training to reflect on his own journey with Habitat for Humanity. When he was five years old, his family bought a Habitat for Humanity home."That is still our family home," Hunter shares. "It's still the home we go home to every Christmas." Now, decades later, while helping prepare for the October 2023 build, he says, "When I look around, I see not only the work that's being done today, but I see the path that these new homes can set these families on."Honoring the Carters' Legacy of Service and ShelterThe 2023 Carter Work Project is particularly exciting, as construction is kicking off after a three-year hiatus between 2019 and 2022 due to the pandemic. This year's event also honors Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter, as it is the first project the couple won't participate in after retiring in 2019, following decades of humanitarian global service.Country music super-stars Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood will host the build event in Charlotte—while also celebrating their 13th year working on the Carter Work Project.Whether celebrities or volunteers, everyone is equal as they gather for this great event. The GAF CARE training is just one of many contributions from all those involved with the goal of building more resilient families and communities. That's why GAF is proud to support the Carter Work Project year after year."A good roof system means that a homeowner won't have to worry," Von Dross noted during the roofing training event in July. "It's quite literally a roof over their head, and we're making sure that roof will be strong and durable and won't leak."Getting Involved and Making a DifferenceWhile preparations are currently underway for the 2023 Carter Work Project, it's never too late to partner with your local Habitat for Humanity affiliate and support building safe and secure homes in partnership with families in your community. The GAF Habitat for Humanity Program works year-round to improve affordable housing and community resiliency. As part of the program, GAF Master Elite® and GAF Certified™ Contractors* donate their time and services to install GAF roofing materials donated by the company (complete with a GAF System Plus Ltd. Warranty).To learn more about how GAF is building resilient communities, read about their Community Matters initiative. There's always an opportunity to give back and help improve the quality of life of others—and as the Carters know, every bit helps.*Contractors enrolled in GAF certification programs are not employees or agents of GAF, and GAF does not control or otherwise supervise these independent businesses. Contractors may receive benefits, such as loyalty rewards points and discounts on marketing tools from GAF for participating in the program and offering GAF enhanced warranties, which require the use of a minimum amount of GAF products. Your dealings with a Contractor, and any services they provide to you, are subject to the GAF Contractor Terms of Use.

By Authors Annie Crawford

January 25, 2024

Don't miss another GAF RoofViews post!

Subscribe now