Mitigating Climate Change and Extreme Heat With Reflective Pavements
Science & Technology

Mitigating Climate Change and Extreme Heat With Reflective Pavements

Reflective pavements might scale back the frequency of warmth waves in Chicago by round 30 % over 20 years. Credit score: Jaysin Trevino/Wikimedia Commons

MIT postdoc explains how reflective pavements can considerably — and usually not directly — mitigate local weather change and excessive warmth.

Extreme warmth occasions — — are anticipated to worsen over the century as a result of local weather change and city warmth islands (UHIs). Cities will possible expertise the brunt of these results.

To assist cities mitigate UHI and excessive warmth, MIT Concrete Sustainability Hub postdoc Hessam AzariJafari is learning probably the most considerable city surfaces: pavements. He has discovered that it’s potential to considerably decrease city air temperatures and greenhouse fuel emissions by altering pavement floor reflectivity. Nevertheless, as he explains under, the results of reflective pavements can rely closely on the place they’re carried out.

Q: What are reflective pavements and how do they influence local weather change?

A: Reflective pavements are a paving technique that may assist resolve the issue of city warmth islands. The so-called “cool pavement” technique is at the moment practiced in a number of cities, akin to Los Angeles, by implementing reflective coatings and/or brighter-color supplies within the pavement mixtures. These properties permit extra daylight to be mirrored from a pavement’s floor, and much less to be absorbed by its mass. Consequently, reflective pavements can decrease city temperatures when the ambient temperature is decrease than the pavement floor temperature. In Los Angeles, for example, we discovered that reflective pavements would scale back the incidence of warmth waves by round 40 % over 20 years.

Along with altering air temperatures, pavements additionally affect local weather change. By reflecting mild into constructing envelopes, they will alter heating and cooling calls for and their related greenhouse fuel (GHG) emissions within the surrounding neighborhoods. Furthermore, by sending a bigger quantity of photo voltaic irradiation to the sky, they will alter the Earth’s vitality steadiness. This course of, referred to as a radiative forcing, creates a cooling impact that may assist counteract local weather change.

Q: How do the results of reflective pavements differ by context?

A: The effectiveness of reflective pavement methods in decreasing local weather change influence depends upon a number of elements. One main issue is geographical context. The native local weather situation, together with real-time temperature, cloud elements, and relative humidity, performs an vital position within the depth of radiative forcing, in addition to modifications to constructing vitality demand (BED) as a result of heating and cooling.

Inside city areas, the neighborhood morphology, akin to constructing density and canyon side ratio [ratio of building heights to the adjacent pavement width], can significantly change the BED impact of reflective pavements. Constructing configuration traits, such because the ratio of the floor space to quantity, the insulation system, and the heating and cooling expertise additionally have an effect on the depth of BED change.

The effectivity and sustainability of the native grid play an element as properly. For instance, producing one kilowatt-hour of electrical energy in Phoenix emits 85 % extra greenhouse fuel emissions than in Boston. That’s as a result of a small proportion of the electrical energy era is from low-GHG sources in Arizona. Due to this fact, will increase in constructing vitality demand in Phoenix can have a bigger local weather change influence.

Q: Many points of a pavement contribute to its life-cycle environmental footprint. The place does floor reflectivity match into that whole footprint?

A: Floor reflectivity is only one a part of a pavement’s cumulative life-cycle emissions. Further impacts embody pavement building and repairs, the additional gasoline consumption of automobiles induced by pavement properties, and the end-of-life landfilling or recycling.

Simply as with pavement reflectivity, these impacts also can differ by context. For instance, in city neighborhoods, the BED impact of pavements is extra pronounced as a result of there are a whole bunch of hundreds of condominium items positioned within the metropolis whose vitality calls for can be altered by the floor reflectivity of pavements. Since pavements in these dense city areas additionally service a comparatively low quantity of site visitors, the contribution of their reflectivity to their whole life-cycle influence is extra important as properly. Nevertheless, on highways, which see considerably higher ranges of site visitors, the floor roughness and structural properties of a pavement contribute to a higher proportion of that pavement’s life-cycle emissions by influencing the gasoline consumption of automobiles. Due to this fact, you will need to think about all parts of a life cycle when municipalities and transportation authorities determine on the environmentally most popular choice.


“Quantifying Location-Particular Impacts of Pavement Albedo on Radiative Forcing Utilizing an Analytical Method” by Xin Xu, Omar Swei, Liyi Xu, C. Adam Schlosser, Jeremy Gregory and Randolph Kirchain, 14 January 2020, Environmental Science & Know-how.

“The Influence of Pavement Albedo on Radiative Forcing and Constructing Power Demand: Comparative Evaluation of City Neighborhoods” by Xin Xu, Jeremy Gregory and Randolph Kirchain, 9 September 2018, Transportation Analysis Document: Journal of the Transportation Analysis Board.

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