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Santa Monica Supervisor Spearheads Rule Requiring 'Cool Roofs'


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By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

August 2, 2017 -- Spearheaded by Santa Monica resident Sheila Kuehl, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Tuesday adopted a rule mandating heat-fighting “cool roofs” for all new construction, building additions and major roof replacements in unincorporated areas.

Supervisor Kuehl, whose Third District extends to beach communities including Santa Monica, said the law will require new roofs be made of sun-reflecting materials, which absorb up to 65 percent less heat than conventional roofs, cooling interior and ambient temperatures.

Lower temperatures, in turn, reduce smog and energy consumption.

The mandate applies to the county’s scores of unincorporated territories, which combined account for roughly one of every nine residents, according to the county.

“By 2050, Los Angeles County is expected to be much hotter than today, making the region even more vulnerable to the ‘urban heat island effect,’” Kuehl said.

The term describes what happens when temperatures rise due to radiating heat from concentrated dark, non-reflective surfaces such as asphalt roofs and roads.

The City of Santa Monica does not require cool roofs. But they would likely be considered by builders, due to the Zero Net Energy (ZNE) ordinance, which went into effect in May ("Council Adopts 'Zero Net Energy' Requirement for New Santa Monica Homes," October 31, 2016) .

The law -- the first of its kind in the country -- requires all single-family homes and low-rise multi-family homes be designed to use 15 percent less energy than allowed in the most recent California Energy Code.

High-rise multi-family homes and non-residential projects must be designed to use 10 percent less.

ZNE is defined as a structure that generate enough of its own energy from renewable sources such as solar panels to equal the amount of energy the building uses.

ZNE ordinance is a “performance standard so no individual strategy is specifically required,” said Constance Farrell, the City's public information officer.

“Cool roofs would likely contribute to a Santa Monica project complying with ZNE but are not required,” she said. “Our ordinance allows designers to identify energy conservation trade-offs and choose the best combination of strategies for their project to achieve an overall energy performance goal."

The California Environmental Protection Agency has determined metro L.A. is the state’s most extreme example of the urban heat effect, with the highest temperatures appearing around downtown L.A. and then swept to the increasingly dense inland valley by Pacific breezes.

In 2013, the City of Los Angeles became the nation’s first major city to decide to require cool roofs. Its updated Green Building Code, which went into effect the following year, applies to all new and refurbished homes.

Kuehl said the urban heat island effect” jeopardizes public health by increasing heat-related injury and death, especially in low-income communities where there are fewer trees and less access to air conditioning.

Gary Gero, the county’s Chief Sustainability Officer, said L.A. County is now be the third California county to require cool roofs.

In another motion related to the environment, the county board also called for a feasibility report on banning polystyrene, a material widely used in plastic straws, plastic cups and clamshell takeout food containers.

Polystyrene products are a major contributor to litter that ends up in local waterways. Styrene, a component of polystyrene, is not biodegradable and is known to cause cancer in lab animals. The motion asks for a report back to the board in 120 days.

Kuehl authored both motions.


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