One example of this urban heat is Los Angeles's Pacoima neighborhood. 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, an affluent community of similar size, according to Bloomberg.
Economic sectors, such as tourism and local businesses, also feel the effects of urban heat. Pacoima food truck vendor Jennifer Ramirez told Bloomberg she couldn't start work until outdoor and street temperatures cooled. Otherwise, her food truck generator could blow out.
Fortunately, cooling strategies are now available and being used in initiatives like the GAF Cool Community Project to help mitigate urban heat.
Understanding Heat Islands
You can envision 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. Temperatures in urban heat islands can often be 15°F to 20°F hotter than in equivalent vegetated areas.
In technical terms, darker, tarmac-covered surfaces have a "low albedo" effect, which describes the ability to reflect and diffuse the sun's rays back to the upper atmosphere. Meanwhile, reflective, snow-covered regions such as the Arctic have "high albedo." Areas with low albedo are at greater risk of experiencing increased heat retention.
Densely packed buildings compound a low albedo effect by preventing cooling breezes from lowering temperatures. To top it 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.
Shifting from Heat Islands to Cool Communities
The GAF Cool Community Project addresses the complex issue of urban heat with a simple solution: Take a hot, sun-exposed community with an abundance of heat-retaining surfaces. Then, apply colorful, solar-reflective coating to its streets and public hardscaping—such as GAF StreetBond® pavement coatings with Invisible Shade™, which Time magazine named one of the Best Inventions of 2022.
The result? Cooler surfaces and ambient air temperatures.
Making Progress on Cooling Pacoima
LA's Pacoima neighborhood is one example of a community hit hard by heat. A true urban heat island, it has consistently been one of the city's hottest areas. On one summer afternoon in 2022, Bloomberg reported a pavement temperature of 127°F at noon. Just one hour later, it had risen to 141.8°F.
Many of Pacoima's residents are in lower-income brackets and live in spaces that haven't been fully optimized to mitigate heat island effects. So, combatting the heat became a priority for local officials and organizations. Melanie Torres, community organizer with Pacoima Beautiful, said that "the cooling solutions that were brought here to Pacoima were actually very impactful to our community." Torres shared, "it definitely cooled things down, but we definitely did need the educational aspect —beginning the discussion of climate exchange and what extreme heat is, and how we can create solutions to combat it."
With resources and support from GAF and non-profit partners, more than 700,000 square feet worth of streets, parking lots, and other hardscapes were coated with StreetBond® over a contiguous 10-block area. Attractive, colorful solar-reflective materials cover the park and playground areas, and blue and white coatings brighten the public basketball court. The formerly dark streets are now a cool gray-blue.
According to Miguel Angel Luna, president of Urban Semillas, Pacoima residents are right "on the front line of climate change." Urban Semillas is an LA-based social and environmental justice consultancy working with GAF on the Cool Community Project.
Surface temperatures have been reduced by an average of 10°F during the daytime on sunny days.
The second phase of the project includes applying pavement coatings to an additional 500,000 square feet of streets and introducing a new cooling technology on select residences—Timberline® CS Shingles. These shingles are made with a highly reflective material that can help reduce attic temperatures and air conditioning costs.
In addition to heat reduction and urban beautification, GAF StreetBond® can help preserve pavement. Longer-lasting pavement can save cities time, money, and resources while giving them another tool to help mitigate the impacts of climate change. This is just another way GAF is looking to strengthen communities from the ground up.
Through this project, GAF and its partners aim to improve the lives of the roughly 2,000 people living within the project area of Pacoima. They're accomplishing this by taking what Jeff Terry, GAF vice president of sustainability, describes as a "complete community approach," which involves residents and local organizations coming together to create a model for cities around the world.
Reducing Temperatures 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:
Surfaces treated with solar-reflective coatings can help reduce heat absorption and lower street and ambient air temperatures. Plus, products such as StreetBond® come in a range of colors to highlight urban areas and preserve pavement.
Solar reflective shingles like Timberline® CS Shingles may save homeowners an average of 7% to 15% on their total cooling costs.* This cooling technology can minimize a building's solar heat gain by reflecting incoming sun rays and reemitting 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.)
*Potential for savings depends on various factors including, but not limited to, climate zone, utility rates, location, and HVAC equipment efficiency.
As industry leaders, we have a responsibility to use our expertise and resources to leave our communities and our planet better than we found it. We are making strategic investments to achieve our goals and have made great progress in partnership with our employees, non-profit partners and contractors. Visit gaf.com/sustainability to learn more and join our efforts.
Longtime fixtures of playgrounds and recreational areas, sports courts have a lot to offer. In addition to providing opportunities for children and adults to participate in physical activities, they can strengthen communities. There are also other benefits when courts are designed to reduce surface temperatures and protect substrate materials.Here's a comprehensive look at the benefits of safe, quality sports courts and the impact innovative pavement coatings can have.Current Challenges with Outdoor CourtsSports court coatings were developed to help address challenges faced at many levels. By enhancing courts' durability and design, communities are provided with tangible solutions that address many of these challenges.Increasing TemperaturesClimate change and the heat island effect in urban areas—where hard surfaces like pavement absorb and retain the sun's heat—have led to higher temperatures, potentially affecting the amount of time people can spend outside. Solutions such as building covered structures can be expensive and require a lengthy design and construction process. Planting trees and other landscaping for shade is effective but can take years to develop.Shrinking BudgetsAt the same time, many schools, municipalities, and community organizations have reduced budgets. Play areas are often seen as inconsequential to curriculum, and it can be easy to defer upgrades or repairs.This has caused facilities to put construction plans on hold and instead search for ways to reduce maintenance costs while extending the useful life of their outdoor equipment and paved surfaces. Staff are tasked with providing options for outdoor activities without investing in expensive equipment or major site renovations.Growing Health ConcernsIn response to these environmental and financial challenges, children have been experiencing less outdoor time and lower physical activity levels. This has been found to play a factor in obesity and mental health. Additionally, regular physical activity for students leads to increased concentration and focus, improved attendance and behavior, and boosts academic performance.Outdoor play is a great way to get physical activity, form relationships, and work through difficulties. In fact, the American Red Cross recommends using play to help children manage their emotions. Many studies have shown the value of structured and unstructured play for children, reporting it helps build social skills and encourages creativity.4 Benefits of Pavement Coatings for Outdoor Sports CourtsSports court surface coatings can address these challenges while providing additional benefits.1. Space FlexibilityTraditional playground equipment or court markings can limit the outdoor space's use. With a rich palette of colorful coatings and designs, pavement coatings can provide opportunities for a variety of activities.For example, four square courts can be embedded in traditional basketball court areas, or unique designs can spark imagination, allowing children to create their own games. Providing both children and adults with fewer constraints in how a space is used can help foster creativity and encourage new forms of exercise and play.Some durable, next-gen pavement coatings may even offer opportunities to create courts that can stand up to vehicular traffic for increased flexibility, providing the ability to turn a court into overflow parking or turning excess parking into a multi-court surface.2. Lower CostsDurable pavement coatings can help reduce maintenance costs, by protecting asphalt and cement from damage, which can reduce cracks and extend the usable life of the asphalt or cement substrate. Additionally, coatings may cost less to install than resurfacing or purchasing new equipment.3. Temperature BenefitsHardscape surfaces absorb heat, which can increase the air temperature near the surface. By incorporating lighter-colored or solar reflective surface coatings, more heat can be reflected off the surface, reducing the temperature of the surface and potentially, the air temperature near the surface. This can result in cooler outdoor spaces for children and adults to play, which may increase the amount of time they can engage in physical activity.4. Increased Activity LevelsStudies have shown that creative outdoor play spaces can help increase activity levels and engagement, especially when the surface temperature of the play area has been reduced. An initiative in Boston, which included creating varied outdoor play courts, led to increased physical activity, improved student behavior, and stronger community relationships. In Los Angeles, similar projects led to a 4% gain in the number of students obtaining an hour or more of physical activity per day and a 7.9% decrease in the number of students considered overweight.How Court Coatings Encourage PlaySchool may be the only opportunity children have to engage in physical activity, sports, and general play. Reports have repeatedly shown that play patterns can change significantly when colorful coatings are used.These coatings can help encourage structured activities and games, like four square or hopscotch, or provide the basis for unstructured activities, such as drawing the school logo or a mural. Students can also learn through these surfaces when the pavement is painted with maps or planets. These coatings can have social benefits as well. Playgrounds with a variety of play options may also lead to decreased injuries and an increase in game participation.How StreetBond® Can HelpWhen assessing whether to add or transform a hardscape into a sports court, look at three main factors: budgets, safety and health concerns, and the value of play.StreetBond® pavement coatings can help schools and community organizations transform their hardscapes into robust play areas while meeting their budget constraints. Coatings can help reduce surface temperatures, protect surfaces, and encourage more creative play, helping communities get healthier while learning to work and live together. Visit the StreetBond® website to explore available products, or email firstname.lastname@example.org to get support and discuss specific projects.
At GAF's shingle manufacturing facility in Baltimore, Maryland there are many day-to-day responsibilities beyond manufacturing itself—including materials planning, purchasing, and waste management, to name just a few. Beginning in 2018, the acting plant manager tasked the Baltimore team with another challenge: could they identify ways to make their operation greener and more efficient? Given GAF's long-time focus on sustainability and their knowledge of the Baltimore plant's environmental footprint, it was clear that a focus on waste diversion would result in the most significant improvements.As Site Materials Manager at the time, Steve Henry, spearheaded the effort. He notes that getting started was the heaviest lift: "It's about having good records, knowing your waste streams, talking with your vendors, and putting a good system in place," Steve said. "Start with the lowest-hanging fruit—what are my biggest waste streams? Who might be able to use this?" The scrap shingles, for instance, weigh the most of all of the plant's waste streams, and disposal—which is based on tonnage—can be expensive. So he focused his efforts on negotiating terms with a shingle recycler to process shingles that would otherwise have been thrown away.Thanks to the collective efforts of the Baltimore team, the facility received a GreenCircle waste diversion certificate in 2018 that recorded a diversion-from-landfill rate of 87%, a percentage that was substantially raised the following year. GreenCircle Certified is a third-party organization that quantifies and certifies the percentage of a facility's waste that has been diverted in this way. Despite this success, the team didn't stop there and the plant has continued to focus on improving the segregation of waste streams, working toward a further increase in the amount of diverted materials. In 2023, they are proud to have achieved a waste diversion rate of 97%.Landfill waste diversion touches many aspects of manufacturing—starting with reducing the amount of waste generated in the first place. This may include redesigning processes so they generate less waste, or by reusing materials. Other means of waste diversion include recycling, composting, or selling a waste to a third party. A last resort—used only for materials that can't be reused or recovered—is to send the material to a waste-to-energy facility for energy recovery.Baltimore's experience has also been shared with the GAF Green Team, which includes representatives from all of the company's manufacturing facilities. The Green Team identifies and implements sustainability projects at their respective locations, and members connect regularly to share global best practices. Team members are responsible for minimizing the footprint at their own facility as well as sharing their learnings so everyone can benefit from the experiences of other sites. Several GAF sites have also achieved waste diversion certificates, including Mount Vernon, IN; Gainesville, TX; Myerstown, PA; New Columbia, PA; Chester, SC; Cumming, GA; Phoenix, AZ; Shafter, CA; Cedar City, UT; and Fontana, CA.To find out more about the latest GAF sustainability initiatives across their business, visit the dedicated GAF Sustainability page.