Celebrated as home to many “first-in-America” institutions, Philadelphia has set its sights on adding yet another accomplishment to its formidable track record – becoming the greenest city in the nation. To rally residents and stoke the spirit of friendly competition among neighborhoods, Mayor Nutter launched the RetroFIT PHILLY “Coolest Block” contest at City Hall today.
Organized under the auspices of The Energy Coordinating Agency of Philadelphia (ECA) and the City of Philadelphia, with product and technology contributions from The Dow Chemical Company and the financial support of The Dow Chemical Company Foundation, the contest invites row home owners to enter to win energy-saving cool roof, air sealing and insulation upgrades for their entire block.
“Our Greenworks Philadelphia goal is to retrofit 15 percent of the city’s row home roofs, and the ‘Coolest Block’ contest is jumpstarting this effort,” said Philadelphia Mayor Michael A. Nutter. “But changing the roof is only part of the package. Dow, a co-sponsor in this initiative, has taken a truly comprehensive approach. The energy-saving cool roof is based on Dow’s technology, and the Company will also provide insulation and air-leak prevention upgrades to the homes on the winning block – truly maximizing the energy-saving impact. I encourage all Philadelphians to get involved in this contest that will save energy, and save you money!”
“Row homes have charm and character, and have long been a unique architectural feature of the city,” said Liz Robinson, executive director, ECA, “but most were built without the advantage of modern building science or materials. The initiative to make them more energy-efficient, and in effect ‘greener,’ can help to improve the quality of life for the residents while saving them money on heating and cooling bills.”
How Cool Roofs Work
Traditional black asphalt roofs soak up the sun’s heat and allow its transfer between the exterior and the interior of the house. White cool roofs, on the other hand, bounce off solar energy to prevent it from being absorbed into the roof and house in the summer. Consequently, they reduce the amount of energy needed to cool the living space and bring the cost of cooling a home down by as much as 20 percent.
The benefits of cool roofs, however, do not end inside the house. The city environment benefits as well, as cool roofs are a proven way to combat urban heat island effect. The roof’s exterior is 50 – 80 degrees cooler on hot summer days, helping to lower high temperatures and improve air quality. The urban heat island phenomenon, aggravated by the large expanses of asphalt and black top, combined with relatively little vegetation or green space, can lead to heat-related illnesses during heat waves.
The Impact of Insulation and Air Sealing
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, proper insulation and air sealing of the home can reduce heating and cooling costs by as much as 30%. Air infiltration – which often occurs between walls and floors, around windows and doors, and through other gaps and cracks – can account for as much as 40% of heat loss in homes (source U.S. DOE). One of the best ways to insulate and air seal a row home is to use insulating foam sealants, which expand on contact to help bridge these openings, keeping heat outside during the summer and inside during the winter.
“We are proud to be able to help the Philadelphia neighborhoods become more energy-efficient and comfortable,” said Jerome Peribere, president and CEO, Dow Advanced Materials, which is headquartered in Philadelphia. “Energy efficiency is high on our list of priorities, both in how we run our business and in how our products can improve it for others. Seeing how Dow makes a difference through its science and quality of its materials is extremely gratifying for us.”
Competing for the “Coolest Block”
Contest entrants will be judged on a range of criteria, but blocks with the highest resident participation have the best chance of winning. Any Philadelphia row home resident is eligible to enter, but must submit a group entry through one “block coordinator.” The coordinator may be self-selected or may be one of the city’s “block captains” who volunteer to organize block activities on a regular basis. Entrants must also submit a brief profile of their neighborhood and the future they envision for it.
Along with a cool roof, the winning block will receive:
• A whole home energy audit – from basement to rooftop – that will identify problem areas where air leakage and poor insulation are robbing homes of precious energy and provide an assessment of where insulation and air sealing products would help improve the home’s overall energy efficiency.
• Installation of Dow’s sealants and insulation in the participating contestants’ residential homes.
Entries will be reviewed by a panel of judges that includes representatives from local media, environmental organizations, and the building industry. The deadline for entry is April 5, 2010. The winning block will be announced by May 10, 2010. In June, the winning block will receive a block party to celebrate.
More information and the official contest rules are available at www.retrofitphilly.com.