Los Angeles Testing Cooling Pavement Paint

Sept. 22, 2017

The city is weighing the environmental impact of cool pavements.

Los Angeles is the first city in the U.S. to test gray pavement coatings that would reduce ground temperature and urban street heat. After initial tests on parking lots, the city will assess performance on streets.

Summer temperatures regularly hit triple digits in Los Angeles. Because the normal black asphalt absorbs 80-95% of sunlight, it can pose significant heat challenges. However, a demonstration with the pavement paint suggested that street temperatures could drop by about 12 degrees F. after one coat.

“Potentially there could be a huge market for cool pavement products. It’s part of a much larger economic trend where solutions for climate change could be the next great investments for the future,” explains Greg Spotts, Assistant Director of the city’s Bureau of Street Services.

The hope is that the pavement paint could reduce energy consumption because the heat gain from pavement would be less intense for the urban area. “Lower temperatures – due to the pavement – mean less reliance on air conditioning,” explains Alan Barreca, an environmental science professor at the University of California, Los Angeles.

However, there are some issues that need to be addressed before this strategy is considered a success. For example, the city will need to address the longevity of the paint coating, as the traffic demands in Los Angeles might dirty the gray coating too quickly. Additionally, more research will determine if there are any environmental drawbacks with these pavement paints before more widely adopting the practice.

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