Cities get hot. Especially in the summer. All the black asphalt on the roads and on rooftops soaks up the sun and creates the dreaded “heat island” effect, sometimes also called the “urbane heat island” or UHI. Anyone who has traveled on a summer day from the countryside into a nearby city knows exactly what this is. It’s like entering an invisible heat bubble where temperatures are 10 – 20 degrees hotter. It’s brutal.

Small wonder a company specializing in reducing the heat island effect picked Phoenix, Arizona to feature its product. Residents of the city returned from their Memorial Day weekends to find that Emerald Cities had installed a 90,000-square-foot “Cool Pavement” in central downtown Phoenix. Their “Celadon Green” solar reflective permanent cool coating is going to reduce the hot asphalt surface temperatures by around 30 degrees. It will also reduce CO2 and the overall heat island effect of the city.

First thing first: I’m not a huge fan of the color. It is reminiscent of the Wizard of Oz, both in name and in hue, which I can’t take seriously. It’s going to clash with just about every color of car driven on the lot, not to mention the color of the establishment. What goes with emerald, anyway? Besides white?

But this isn’t about color. It’s about stepping out of an air conditioned vehicle onto a cool surface. Okay, well, if it’s Phoenix in July it’s not going to be cool outside, per se, but at least it will be a lot cooler than if the pavement was black. And that’s what this is really about, so I guess my color issue is pretty petty. Get this: average summer heat in Phoenix can hit 118 degrees. An average black asphalt surface can heat up to 170 degrees. That’s Asics-melting temperature right there.

Urban dwellers should be looking to their city elect to bring this kind of product into their metropolis. It’s no so dissimilar to the Coolest Block project undertaken in Philadelphia last year. Mayors of cities with serious heat island issues should take a close look at this product and a contest like Mayor Nutter ran to see if a combination of the two would work.

So what’s next? Can a product like Emerald Cities’ Cool Pavement work for residential application? I doubt there are many homeowners who feel their small strip of driveway is having a huge impact on their little personal neighborhood climate, but even a larger suburban development might benefit from a little cooling effect in the hot summer months.

If you could get HOAs to buy into the color, that is.

What do you think? Would you want to see some Cool Pavements where you live?

Emerald Cities