Architectural Record BE - Building Enclosure

Cool Roofs in Perspective: Not Just Black and White

This course is no longer active
Sponsored by Carlisle SynTec
Continuing Education

Learning Objectives - After this course, you should be able to:

  1. %IExplain the basic properties of “cool” roofs and how their impact on energy and carbon savings can vary by climate, site, building type and building design.
  2. %IEvaluate the potential for moisture problems and other unintended negative consequences related to the use of “cool” roofs in the wrong conditions.
  3. %ICompare the energy savings and environmental performance of “cool” white roofs and dark EPDM roofs.
  4. %IAnalyze the significant factors involved in sustainable, energy-efficient roof selection and design.


In recent years, the use of "cool roofs" with highly reflective, usually white, surfaces has grown dramatically in every part of the country, primarily due to their potential for cutting air conditioning costs and reducing the urban heat island effect. "Cool" roofs are undoubtedly a breakthrough technology and when used correctly are capable of saving enormous amounts of energy and reducing carbon emissions. However, a perception has grown that they are the best answer for every roof everywhere, and like most panaceas, the reality is proving to be more complex. As "cool" roofs are used more widely, the unintended negative consequences of "cool" roofs in cool climates, or without adequate insulation, or without informed design, are also growing. This course explores the major issues involved, putting the use of "cool" roofs into the perspective of recent research and experience, and showing exactly where and how "cool" roofs can be a major part of the solution, and where they may actually be less energy efficient and sustainable than traditional dark roofing systems.