This Street Treatment Fights Extreme Heat

Applied to streets, parking lots, and other asphalt surfaces, a reflective epoxy coating can lower temperatures by as much as 10 degrees and cool neighborhoods vulnerable to extreme heat.

2 minute read

August 2, 2022, 10:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


An innovative project in Pacoima, a community in the Los Angeles area, is using an epoxy acrylic coating to reflect heat that would otherwise be absorbed by asphalt and make the neighborhood hotter. “The coating is being applied to nearly 1 million square feet of roads, playgrounds and parking lots in a 10-block-area around [Hubert H. Humphrey Memorial Park]. About 7,300 people live within a half mile.” As Todd Woody reports in Bloomberg, “A 2020 study published in the journal Environmental Research Letters found that the use of such coatings in two Los Angeles neighborhoods decreased pavement temperatures up to 10°.”

The GAF Cool Community Project is led by GAF and StreetBond. According to Jeff Terry, VP of Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability at GAF, “Pacoima is one of the hottest parts of L.A. County and hasn't gotten the kind of investment like a lot of other communities. One of the challenges with urban heating is that it doesn't stop at night. Hopefully we're going to make this place a little bit more livable for the residents.”

Woody adds that “Heat maps released this month by the University of California at Los Angeles show that during days of extreme temperatures between 2009 and 2018, Pacoima residents made 19,009 excess emergency room visits. That’s more than seven times the number in Santa Monica, a similar-sized community in Los Angeles County” that benefits from ocean breezes, the article notes.

“You’ll find a three-or-fourfold difference between neighborhoods like Pacoima and wealthier, greener neighbors in the same climate zone,” says David Eisenman, a professor of medicine and public health and director at the UCLA Center for Public Health and Disasters.

“When the coating project is completed later this summer, residents will be able to step out of their homes and walk or bicycle with their children along cool streets to the neighborhood elementary school, where a large cool playground will feature a mural by a local artist painted in solar reflective colors.” The coating will also be applied to a basketball court and parking lots, and supporters hope the Pacoima project can serve as a model for others. “Over the next two years, a monitoring program will gather data to quantify temperature changes in the neighborhood that can be used to design cool pavement projects in other communities.”

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