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To Go Green, Think White

white-rooftop

One way both to save energy and curb climate change is to make surfaces – roofs, even streets – a light color. Solar radiation would be reflected into space rather than absorbed by buildings and pavement. Less air conditioning would be needed. If this were done uniformly, says Energy Secretary Steven Chu, the results could be huge – “the equivalent of reducing the carbon emissions due to all the cars on the road for 11 years.”

This cool idea suddenly puts a longtime Bermuda practice on the cutting edge. With no freshwater streams or lakes, Bermudians rely on roofs to catch rainwater, which flows by way of gutters and downspouts into underground storage tanks. By tradition and, since 1949, law, roofs must be whitewashed or coated with a nontoxic white paint, something intended to keep the water pure. “lt seems highly unlikely that heat reflection would have been a consideration in the early 18th century,” says the island’s building control officer, Gordon K. Ness. Now, it is – even in paradise.

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