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Home > Feature Articles > Landscaping

Sustainable Appllicatons of Concrete for Cool Communities

Heat island effect is reduced with light surfaces such as concrete

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Heat  island or cool community through light surfaces and vegetation Concrete isn't a favorite material for sustainable natural resources operations...but in some cases, concrete is better than alternatives. And HOW materials are used can be the sustainable factor. Common sense and balance are the watchwords for this material.

Heat Island Effect

Cities and urban areas are 3 to 8 °F (2 to 4°C) warmer than surrounding areas due to the heat island effect caused by buildings and paved surfaces that take the place of trees and vegetation. VEgetation shades the ground and reduces surface temperatures. Vegetation and trees also cool the air and reduce ambient temperatures through the evaporation of water through the leaves. Isn't it amazing how this natural system works?

LOS ANGELES - Research has shown that the average temperature of Los Angeles has risen steadily over the past half century, and is now 6 to 7°F (3 to 4°C) warmer than 50 years ago.

Cooler Applications for Concrete

Which surfaces heat the city the most? Black ones!

Urban heat islands are primarily attributed to horizontal sufaces such as roofs and pavements that absorb solar radiation (heat). Pavements include roads, parkiing lot, driveways and sidewalks.

Where paved surfaces are required, usiing materials with more solar reflectance (albedo) such as porous concrete or concrete will reduce the heat island effect.

Applications also need to take into consideration water concerns -- and porous paving that incorporates living grasses, etc. in the paving units is more ecologically balanced than solid concrete.

Roof alternatives to replace hot tar and dark shingles include painting with a white material, light colored tiles or even a living roof...a truly green roof.

Concrete is an option that offers lighter surfaces than asphalt. But even the design of concrete alternatives require balance with the need for vegetative growing spaces and stormwater runoff control. Shading concrete surfaces with vegetation is also a smarter, greener design.

SOURCE: For more detailed information about balancing heat island effects, see

Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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