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Philadelphia will encourage white roofs with ‘Coolest Block’ contest

February 17th, 2010

White roofs cut energy costs. (Photo: PRNewsFoto/The Dow Chemical Company)

White roofs cut energy costs. (Photo: PRNewsFoto/The Dow Chemical Company)

From Green Right Now Reports

Philadelphia wants to rally its residents and stoke the spirit of friendly competition among neighborhoods to green up their streets. The RetroFIT PHILLY “Coolest Block” contest, announced today at City, will encourage residents to update their energy-hungry black rooftops.

“Our Greenworks Philadelphia goal is to retrofit 15 percent of the city’s row home roofs, and the ‘Coolest Block’ contest is jumpstarting this effort,” Philadelphia Mayor Michael A. Nutter said in a statement.

Organized under the auspices of The Energy Coordinating Agency of Philadelphia (ECA) and the City of Philadelphia, with product and technology contributions from The Dow Chemical Company and the financial support from The Dow Chemical Company Foundation, the contest invites row home owners to enter to win energy-saving cool roof, air sealing and insulation upgrades for their entire block.

“Row homes have charm and character, and have long been a unique architectural feature of the city,” said Liz Robinson, executive director Philadelphia’s ECA, “but most were built without the advantage of modern building science or materials. The initiative to make them more energy-efficient, and in effect ‘greener,’ can help to improve the quality of life for the residents while saving them money on heating and cooling bills.”

Traditional black asphalt roofs soak up the sun’s heat and allow its transfer between the exterior and the interior of the house. White roofs, on the other hand, bounce off solar energy to prevent it from being absorbed into the roof and house in the summer. They can reduce the amount of energy needed to cool the living space and bring the cost of cooling a home down by as much as 20 percent.

These white “cool roofs” also are a proven way to combat urban heat island effect. The roof’s exterior is 50 – 80 degrees cooler on hot summer days, helping to lower high temperatures and improve air quality. The urban heat island phenomenon, aggravated by the large expanses of asphalt and black top, combined with relatively little vegetation or green space, can lead to heat-related illnesses during heat waves.

Dow, a co-sponsor in this initiative, will provide insulation and air-leak prevention upgrades to the homes on the winning block . According to the U.S. Department of Energy, proper insulation and air sealing of the home can reduce heating and cooling costs by as much as 30 percent. Air infiltration – which often occurs between walls and floors, around windows and doors, and through other gaps and cracks – can account for as much as 40 percent of heat loss in homes, according to the Department of Energy.

Contest entrants will be judged on a range of criteria, but blocks with the highest resident participation have the best chance of winning. Any Philadelphia row home resident is eligible to enter, but must submit a group entry through one “block coordinator.”  The coordinator may be self-selected or may be one of the city’s “block captains” who volunteer to organize block activities on a regular basis. Entrants must also submit a brief profile of their neighborhood and the future they envision for it.

Entries will be reviewed by a panel of judges that includes representatives from local media, environmental organizations, and the building industry. The deadline for entry is April 5, 2010. The winning block will be announced by May 10, 2010. In June, the winning block will receive a block party to celebrate.



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