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Columbia University Urban Climate Study: White Roof at QBG is Cool


Stuart Gaffin –Center for Climate Systems Research, Columbia University

Gennadyi Gurman – Queens Botanical Garden
718-886-3800, ext. 231

Flushing, NY – March 13, 2012 – According to a paper in the March issue of the scientific journal Environmental Research Letters, “bright is the new black” for roof building in New York City. The article, submitted by Columbia University’s Center for Climate Systems Research (CCSR), reports the findings of New York City’s first long-term climate study measuring the cooling effect of white roofing materials. 

Whiter roofing surfaces with higher albedo (or reflectivity) are growing in popularity among urban building designers because they absorb less sunlight, helping to keep overall city temperatures down. The CCSR study monitored the roofs of three New York City facilities: Queens Botanical Garden in Flushing, MoMA Queens, and a Con Edison building in Long Island City.

According to research scientist Stuart Gaffin, the paper’s lead author, the temperature data collected from the roof of Queens Botanical Garden’s LEED Platinum certified Visitor & Administration Building was particularly valuable to the study. The roof was installed with thermo-plastic polyolefin or “TPO,” the “fastest growing…roofing membrane in the industry within the U.S.” TPO was observed to be one of the most durable materials in the study and in compliance with EPA emissivity standards.

Results from the climate study will help identify the most cost effective and sustainable roofing materials for building developers and may have implications for building protocols citywide. Support for the study has come from NASA, The Mayor’s Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability, and The New York Department of Buildings, which aims to create 250 million additional square feet of white roofing material by 2020.

For more information about the Center for Climate Systems Research (CCSR) study, call Stuart Gaffin at (917) 865-4421 or email srg43@columbia.edu. Queries may also be directed to Gennadyi Gurman at (718) 886-3800, ext. 231 or ggurman@queensbotanical.org.


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