Targeted implementation of cool roofs for equitable urban adaptation to extreme heat

Ashley M. Broadbent, Juan Declet-Barreto, E. Scott Krayenhoff, Sharon L. Harlan, Matei Georgescu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Cities are facing the twin pressures of greenhouse gas driven climatic warming and locally induced urban heating. These pressures are threatening populations that are sensitive to extreme heat due to sociodemographic factors including economic means. Heat-reducing infrastructure adaptation measures such as reflective “cool” materials can reduce urban temperatures. Here we examine the needs-based equity implications associated with heat-reducing cool roofing in Maricopa County, Arizona through application of high-resolution urban-atmospheric simulations. We simulate heatwave conditions and evaluate the air temperature reduction arising from uniform cool roof implementation (i.e., the entire urbanized county), and contrast results against simulated cooling impacts of needs-based targeted cool roof implementation in sociodemographically heat sensitive areas. We find that installing cool roofs uniformly, rather than in a targeted fashion, provides on average 0.66 °C reduction in the highest heat sensitivity area and 0.39 °C temperature reduction in the lowest heat sensitivity area due in part to a higher roof area density in the heat sensitive area. Targeting cool roof implementation yields 0.45 °C cooling in the most sensitive areas compared to 0.22 °C cooling in the least sensitive areas, meaning that needs-based targeted cool roofs in high sensitivity areas provide more relief than cool roofs targeted at low sensitivity areas, thus providing more cooling where it is most needed. Needs-based targeted implementation has the dual benefits of concurrently producing more than twice as much cooling and reducing heat exposure for the largest absolute number of individuals in the densely populated, highly heat sensitive areas. Targeting cool roof implementation to high heat sensitivity areas, however, does not achieve thermally equal temperatures in Maricopa County because the high sensitivity areas were substantially warmer than low sensitivity areas prior to implementation. This study illustrates the utility of a new “Targeted Urban Heat Adaptation” (TUHA) framework to assess needs-based equity implications of heat-reducing strategies and underscores its importance by examining the impacts of cooling interventions across sociodemographically heterogeneous urban environments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number151326
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - Mar 10 2022


  • Cool roofs
  • Heat sensitivity index
  • Needs-based adaptation
  • Urban heat
  • WRF

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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