With climate change ramping up and an El Nino weather pattern in effect for the western hemisphere, heat island effect has become a real problem for cities sweltering under the summer sun. GAF created a product called Streetbond Pavement Coating that aims to turn that heat island effect around by reflecting heat back into space.

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The GAF Cool Community project is working to help mitigate urban heat island effects by painting hot city surfaces such as pavement that absorbs heat and can cause burns on contact. GAF StreetBond pavement coatings feature an innovative technology called Invisible Shade — named by TIME magazine as one of its Best Inventions of 2022. It’s a product that can reduce temperatures of hot paved surfaces. And, of course, it comes in all shades and colors so you can coat a playground to make it less dangerously hot as easily as you could paint your city parking lots and streets to stave off the worst of a heat wave.

Related: New MIT passive cooling system works without electricity

Coating streets and roofs to minimize heat island effect

It’s possible to coat more than just the road surfaces. Rooftops also account for a large portion of heat island effect through radiation absorption. By painting city streets, roofs and other large surface areas with reflective coatings, it is possible to significantly cool the heat island effect and keep city dwellers much more comfortable in the summer sun.

“The U.S. has four million miles of roads and 61 billion square feet of roofing on commercial buildings (roughly equivalent to one million football fields), trapping heat at increasingly dangerous levels as global temperatures rise,” GAF reported.

And this isn’t just about comfort: heat world wide is getting dangerous as temperatures push into the triple digits beyond what the human body can cope with. From heat stroke to excessive heat deaths now numbering in the millions worldwide every year to social impacts like depression and suicide (a 1.8°F increase in average temperature correlates to a 1% increase in suicides), excessive heat is a threat to a peaceful society if it continues to rise. There have even been reports of increased crime (with an increase of 10% to 20% in aggravated assaults and assaults at high temperatures) and even hate speech spiking during heat waves (with a marked 22% increase in online hate speech originating from regions experiencing extreme heat).

Cool Community Project

Roofing company GAF is meeting this challenge with its Cool Community Project, a research project studying the impacts of cooling solutions to help turn America’s hardscapes back into liveable spaces during hot summer months. Roads, sidewalks, roofs… everything is fair game.

Preliminary results of the study indicate a reduction of 1.5 to 3.5 degrees Fahrenheit in air temperature and 10 degrees Fahrenheit at the surface level of hot streets. That could be the difference between burning your hands when you trip and fall on the sidewalk versus going about your business. GAF is continuing its study in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Pacoima, where GAF has painted over 700,000 square feet of city surfaces in solar reflective coatings.

What’s next? Cool roofing products! If we can combine solar and other renewable energy installations with city cooling solutions, we might be able to stave off the worst heat illness and societal consequences of climate change related heat effects to billions of people worldwide. Ask anyone living through the current widespread heatwave that has blanketed most of the U.S. in 2023: a 10-degree difference taking pavement from 113 degrees down to 103 makes a difference.


Images via GAF