In the Australian building industry, sometimes the simple solutions are the best, like the one put forward in a recent study from the University of Melbourne: if you want to lower the energy needs of your buildings, paint your roof white.

Depending on the area, white-painted roofs on large, low-rise structures such as retail developments can reduce indoor temperatures by as much as 4 degrees Celsius on sunny days, according to university researchers. The resulting drop in temperature would significantly reduce the need for electricity to run massive industrial air conditioners, not only lowering electrical bills, but helping the environment at the same time.

“If they are large buildings but not high-rise, then it’s going to have a huge effect. I think buildings will see there is a financial benefit for doing it,” said Lord Mayor Robert Doyle. “This is not some feel-good exercise about sustainability in the environment. It happens to be an important element of it, but the economics are there. It’s modestly expensive to do, very short payback, and then an immediate return on energy saving in the bills.”

Certain types of low-rise structures with large base areas, like airports, could also benefit from white-painted roofs, which absorb less heat. Putting the test into practice, the ArtPlay building at the Melbourne Graduate School of Education now has a white roof. Councilor Cathy Oke, Chair of the Future Melbourne (Eco-City) Committee, said Melbourne’s commercial buildings would greatly benefit from white roofs. “White roofs can cool commercial buildings by three per cent on hot days, which helps reduce the urban heat island effect and improve the health of city users,” she said.

To conduct their study, researchers monitored the temperatures of five test buildings at the University of Melbourne’s Burnley Campus with and without white coatings, and found that structures with white roofs showed significantly cooler temperatures, both on the exterior and interior. For more information on white roofs, visit www.1200buildings.com.au

Home Automation

Call it ‘domotics,’ and you are likely to receive a blank stare, but refer to it as ‘smart home’ or ‘home automation,’ and you will get a nod of acknowledgement. For the past few years, consumers have heard the word ‘smart’ attached to countless products and services, from food and drink to snacks like popcorn and mobile phones, which no one seems to refer to as a ‘cellphone’ anymore. Yet what, exactly, constitutes ‘smart’?

July 16, 2020, 10:45 AM AEST