Lonely Planet Writer

LA paints the streets white to cool them down in soaring summer temperatures

An innovative initiative in Los Angeles aims to lower the soaring temperature of the city’s streets. As part of the ‘Cool Pavements’ pilot project, representatives from the Bureau of Street Surfaces have covered 15 of the city’s streets in a light-coloured, asphalt-based substance. In doing so, they’re lowering the sweltering temperature not only of the roads, but of the surrounding buildings too.

The completed white streets of LA. Image by BSS Los Angeles

“Temperatures in Southern California are rising as a result of climate change”, say the BSS. “Thanks to Councilmember Blumenfield’s leadership and support, the Bureau will be fighting even harder against global warming with the ‘Cool Pavement’ pilot project. The project involves applying a light gray coating onto the pavement that absorbs less heat than its darker asphalt counterpart.”

So far, the results have been overwhelmingly successful. “Jordan Avenue in Council District 3 was the first of its kind in California to test the cool seal on a public street. Results from this preliminary testing have shown the coating reducing temperatures +10 degrees. The goal of these efforts are reducing the risk of heat-related deaths, to save energy by reducing air conditioning, and replicate these results in each council districts designated streets.”

The transformation in process. Image by BSS Los Angeles

The US Environmental Protection Agency explains how regular street material traps heat; “conventional pavements in the United States reach peak summertime surface temperatures of 120 – 150°F (48 – 67°C). These surfaces can transfer heat downward to be stored in the pavement subsurface, where it’s re-released as heat at night. The warmer daytime surface temperatures also can heat stormwater as it runs off the pavement into local waterways. These effects contribute to urban heat islands (especially at nighttime) and impair water quality.”

“‘Cool Pavements’ refer to a range of established and emerging materials. These pavement technologies tend to store less heat and may have lower surface temperatures compared with conventional products. They can help address the problem of urban heat islands, which result in part from the increased temperatures of paved surfaces in a city or suburb. Communities are exploring these pavements as part of their heat island reduction efforts.”