Center for Health
and the Global
Climate Health and Risk Tool

Albedo Management Using Cooling Materials

by Alan Wang, BA, Jeremy J. Hess, MD, MPH
Published: 06/13/2023

Albedo is a measure that quantifies the proportion of incoming radiation reflected from a surface (from 0 to 1). Higher albedo materials reflect more shortwave radiation. In the built environment – principally in roofing and paving – these materials reduce heat hazard intensity and thus health impacts. Most urban environments have albedos between 0.15 and 0.2. There are no studies that have directly observed impacts of albedo management on health care utilization or mortality. On average, in simulation studies, increasing urban environment albedo by 0.1 drops temperatures by 0.09°C (0.16°F) and heat-related mortality by 1.8%. Albedo management is more effective when combined with other strategies, particularly increasing urban vegetation. The literature regarding the timing and cost of implementation is limited. Materials for increasing pavement albedo are approximately $7 per square meter (m2) or $6,250 per city block. Approximate installation costs for a new high albedo flat roof are $28/m2 and $80/m2 for a new high albedo residential pitched roof.

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