Reduce peak energy demand and stormwater runoff. Install cool pavement in your community.

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The term "heat island" describes built-up, urban areas that are warmer than nearby rural environs. Heat islands can affect communities by increasing summertime peak energy demand, air-conditioning costs, air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, heat-related illness and mortality, and water quality.

To reduce the heat island effect, communities are exploring the established and emerging technologies of cool pavements. The term currently refers to paving materials that reflect more solar energy, enhance water evaporation or have been otherwise modified to remain cooler than conventional pavements.

Conventional paving materials can reach peak summertime temperatures of 120 to 150°F (48 to 67°C), transferring excess heat to the air above them and heating stormwater as it runs off the pavement into local waterways. According to an analysis of four geographically diverse cities, pavements account for nearly 30 to 45 percent of all land cover in urban areas. This makes them an important element to consider in heat island mitigation.

Cool pavements can be created with existing paving materials (such as asphalt and concrete); newer approaches include the use of coatings or grass paving. Cool pavement technologies are not as advanced as other heat island mitigation strategies, and there is no official standard or labeling program to designate cool paving materials. To address the growing demand for guidance on pavement choices, the Transportation Research Board has formed a subcommittee on Paving Materials and the Urban Climate.

The EPA maintains an Urban Heat Island Community Actions Database, which provides information on more than 75 local and statewide initiatives to reduce heat islands and achieve related benefits. Click to find out which communities have cool pavement initiatives under way.