Seven years ago, an initiative called NYC Cool Roofs was launched under Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's administration to cover as much of New York City’s rooftops as possible in a reflective white coating. It was meant to not only help cool down the city, as many roofing materials used in the Big Apple absorb heat, but also to cool down the buildings themselves. The Cool Roofs program, a project of the NYC Department of Small Business Services, continued under the de Blasio administration, and in 2014 it became part of a goal to reduce carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050. Originally intended to cover 1 million square feet of rooftop, the white coating has now covered just over 6 million square feet.
But it’s not only the initiative that has been expanded and advanced—so has cool roof technology. “The cool roofs that they were doing during Bloomberg’s time were good, but they were just coatings,” says Christopher Anderson, vice president of CGC Restoration Inc., a professional contractor in Brooklyn, “while the cool roofs they have now are more like roof extenders. They do the same thing where it still reflects the sun’s rays, but they also extend the life of the roof.”
Anderson says he has been doing this type of installation now for nearly three years, but it’s not huge in New York yet. “It’s a lot bigger in the South. Now it’s starting to gain a little momentum as people realize what it can do at a cheaper rate. Instead of replacing your roof, you can go and put this coating on it to extend it for another 10-20 years.”
The advantages that the new system brings aren’t just environmental—they’re also structural. “You don’t have to put a new roof on; you can do both at the same time: the cool roof and a new roof,” says Anderson.
According to Anderson, you can put the new cool roofing on any type or slant of roof but shingles. “You could have just about any type of roof,” he explains, “so it can go over any type of membrane. It just changes the primer you would put down before the product. The only thing is if the roof is in bad shape you might need to do slight repairs to the parts of the roof that are damaged,” he says.