Kevin McCallum walks carefully across the flat roof of the three-story walkup apartment building in Makiki. The founder of Cool Roof Hawaii is no stranger to rooftops and he’s not surprised by the deep cracks he finds in the black tar and gravel surface. The owner of the building stands beside Kevin as he kneels down and holds a digital thermometer just above the surface. It reads 121° Fahrenheit. “Check this out,” McCallum says to the owner, showing him the digital display. “Not only can we stop the leaking, but we can bring this temperature way down, too.”
Cool roofs have been around since the ’80s and should ring a bell. You may have seen pictures of the Department of Energy’s white rooftop in Washington, D.C. or read about New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former Vice President Al Gore’s 2009 partnership to develop cool roofs on over 10,000 square feet of rooftops in Queens. Secretary of Energy Dr. Steven Chu has been promoting cool roof coatings for years and the EPA’s Energy Star program has been rating cool paints and coatings since 1999. Even Wal-Mart has applied the white, energy-saving roof coating to over 4,500 of their stores nationwide.
But what exactly constitutes a cool roof and how does a layer of paint save energy? A cool roof is any type of roof that is covered in a white or reflective coating or paint. Traditional dark-colored roofs use tar, gravel, asphalt or wood shingles to absorb solar radiation—heat from the sun. The problem is, because the heat is absorbed by the roof, it is transferred below into the interior living space, drastically heating up the air inside. This temperature spike leads to an increased demand for air conditioning and, in turn, a higher demand for peak-hour electricity and the associated elevated energy costs. Roofs treated with a cool roof coating reflect the solar radiation and mitigate the heat transfer into the living space, significantly reducing both the surface temperature of the roof and the interior living space.
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As if rampant oil consumption and global warming aren’t enough to give you anxiety, Irena Salina’s impassioned documentary, FLOW, serves as a wakeup call for viewers to check the box next to global water crisis. Through a series of interviews with scientists and activists, the film touches upon two of the biggest water-related problems: privatization of the world’s dwindling water supply and the unsettling truth about the quality of bottled water, which remains largely unregulated by the government.
FLOW takes viewers on a tour of some of the world’s most bitter water battles, showing the ill effect that water privatization has on communities in impoverished, rural areas in countries such as Bolivia and South Africa. The second half of the film brings the problem closer to home, exposing the dangerous pathogens and bacteria that are often found in bottled water. While the film itself may be a bit daunting with its pre-apocalyptic tone, the message is clear: cherish and conserve your water supply because it is vanishing at an alarming rate.
–Published in Green Magazine, Winter 2009–