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What You Need to Know about the Changes in Urban Heat Island Effect Credit in LEED®

There have been substantial changes to the way urban heat island effect is calculated in LEED® v4. Previously, parking areas (also known as hardscapes) and roof areas were separated for purposes of the LEED® credit calculations, but now they are combined. The intent of this update is to capture the variety of building sites where urban heat island effect impacts must be considered. This includes everything from small buildings with large parking lots to those with no parking and built right up to the lot line. This new calculation may direct focus away from a “roof as hero” strategy, where a highly reflective roof could earn a credit even though it was adjacent to a large non-reflective parking area, effectively negating the benefit.

Stated another way, since the reflectivity of the parking lot is now averaged with that of the roof, there may be less incentive to pursue cool roofing as a separate measure without also mitigating the heating effects of parking areas; and more incentive to design those parking areas to lessen the urban heat island effect. This will certainly change the way project teams approach this important credit. That’s because cool, reflective roofing technology is arguably more widely available than cool, reflective hardscape technology.

However, that’s likely to change with GAF’s recent acquisition of Quest Construction Products and their StreetBond product line. StreetBond products are specialty asphalt coating products with good solar reflectivity that are well suited for bringing hardscapes up to the reflectivity requirements of LEED® v4. The product is available in a wide range of colors, many of which are good choices for cool playgrounds, parking areas, and streetscapes (as well as bike lanes). This solution can make achieving the new urban heat island credit quite possible, even on sites with large parking areas in relation to building size.

Learn more about the changes in LEED® v4.

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