How GAF is helping people beat the heat by cooling the streets
GAF won at The Drum Awards for Social Purpose 2022 in the Best Community Engagement category for its work to cool American neighborhoods. Here, we find out more about what went into this successful project.
Extreme heat is the leading weather-related cause of death in the US
Extreme heat is the leading weather-related cause of death in the US, disproportionately affecting poorer communities. As climate change continues to threaten neighborhoods all over the world, GAF, North America’s largest roofing and waterproofing manufacturer, is committed to using its products and resources to help address this issue.
GAF launched the Cool Community Project, an unprecedented, community-wide, multi-phase research effort to understand the impacts of various cooling solutions on heat and livability within metropolitan areas.
Extreme heat is the leading weather-related cause of death in the U.S., disproportionately affecting poorer communities and people of color, creating health and economic concerns.
An estimated 85% of Americans, around 280 million people, live in metropolitan areas and as the climate continues to change, many urban areas are experiencing extreme heat or the “heat island effect," in which daytime temperatures can be 1-7°F higher than in surrounding areas, and nighttime temperatures can be 2-5°F higher.
Heat islands are influenced by albedo, which measures whether a surface reflects sunlight or absorbs and retains the sun’s heat. In many urban areas, pavements and roofs make up 60% of urban surfaces, which means the types of surfaces used, especially across public spaces, can play a big role in helping communities adapt and mitigate the effects of a heat island.
Between the pavement coatings and the roofing and building products it manufactures, GAF is well-positioned to help mitigate this issue. GAF began by looking at areas particularly vulnerable to heat and where to study the impact of the solutions available on a community-wide level.
The first phase kicked off during the summer months: a perfect opportunity to connect to the timely challenges of the heatwaves felt in the U.S. and globally. GAF kicked off the 1-million-square-foot coating project in July, creating compelling visuals through a mural, colorful basketball courts, crosswalks and more. The team invited reporters to various project touchpoints to see the coatings live and captured photos and videos of the before and after.
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The team targeted meteorologists and reporters covering climate change and resilient design and planning, positioning GAF as a leader in identifying and implementing solutions for climate challenges we faced in real time. The work culminated with a community day where local organizations, GAF volunteers, and local residents put the finishing touches on the mural and playground.
Leveraging the timely news of surging temperatures, the team was able to secure major media on site to see the installation live, leading to hits in Bloomberg, Good Morning America, and local broadcasts. Following the completion of the work, GAF conducted tours with media to showcase the immediate heat reduction of the coatings compared to untreated pavement areas.
While long-term research and monitoring are being done, the immediate impact is undeniable. On average, a decrease in surface temperature between 10-12 degrees was seen - in some cases even higher. The community has seen new life as well; many residents have shared that they’re feeling a difference when they’re outside with more taking to the parks to enjoy the comfortable new spaces. Those with children have been especially vocal about the impact - one mother, who used to dread the walk to the community pool, shared that she no longer feels the heat through her shoes.