white is the new green

Normally, in a political context, to whitewash something provokes more antipathy than admiration.

But Melbourne Lord Mayor Robert Doyle might yet prove the Tom Sawyer of local politics if he can persuade others to follow his lead and pick up a bucket and paint.

Recently the City of Melbourne splashed out $16,000 worth of special solar-reflective paint complete with insulating nanoparticles and took to the roof of its ArtPlay building at Birrarung Marr.

But while the roof now dazzles like celebrity white teeth among the grey and grimy bystanders, the effect is much more than cosmetic.

The simple act of painting a roof white which reflects, rather than absorbs light, can reduce internal building temperatures by 3 per cent.

The net benefits of “cool roofs” across the city has been demonstrated in Chicago which made reflective roofs part of its building code in 2008.

There, painting the town white has clearly helped counter the urban island heat effect caused by all those paved surfaces and dark rooftops, with temperatures in the vicinity of some building clusters shown to drop by 5 per cent.

Melbourne is the first Australian capital to embrace the cool roof concept after a study found the city could reduce its CO2 emissions by 1.5 million kilos a year if the rooftops of the CBD’s commercial buildings were painted white.

The Melbourne University research team monitored five test buildings with and without white coatings. It found the buildings with white roofs were demonstrably cooler inside and out.

But with more than three and a half million metres square of commercial rooftop Tom’s going to need a lot of apples to get the job done.

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