Million Cool Roofs Challenge: Accelerating Global Access to Affordable, Sustainable Cooling Through Cool Roof Materials

Million Cool Roofs Challenge: Accelerating Global Access to Affordable, Sustainable Cooling Through Cool Roof Materials

Ten projects awarded $100,000 each through a competition to deploy one million square meters of cool roofs


Finalists for the Million Cool Roofs Challenge—a global competition to accelerate access to affordable, sustainable cooling through rapid deployment of cool roof materials—were announced today. The ten award-winning projects have each received $100,000 boost funding to deploy their solutions between September 2019 and December 2020 and include a range of innovative technologies and approaches for deployment in residential, municipal, and commercial buildings. Winning projects are listed below and profiled here.

$1 million will be awarded in 2021 to the team that has demonstrated the best sustainable and transferable model for rapid deployment of cool roofs, with the aim of deploying one million square meters of cool roofs. Final projects will also be judged on the effectiveness, viability, scalability, and sustainability of their approaches. Judging criteria are available here.

To advance cool roof solutions, finalists were selected by a global panel of expert judges from academia, industry, civil society, government, and philanthropy.

“The Challenge received interest and engagement from applicants around the world. We look forward to seeing how the ten winners use their boost funding to accelerate the scaling of their cool roof innovations. These ten deployments are the kind of solutions the world needs to adapt to the warming world while minimizing carbon pollution,” said Dan Hamza-Goodacre, Executive Director of the Kigali Cooling Efficiency Program.

As the world warms, rapidly scaling up cooling solutions like solar-reflective cool roofs in countries exposed to heat stress and lacking widespread access to cooling services is essential. Studies show that in buildings without air conditioning, replacing a dark roof with a white “cool” roof can reduce interior temperatures by two to three degrees Celsius and net annual energy use by up to 20 percent.

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The winning projects focus on geographies across the developing world and on a range of innovative solutions, including high performance solar reflective products, indigenous insulating materials, light-colored paint, and a reflective coating financed by revenue from a community plastic waste recycling program.

Nick Virr, Programme Director of BRAC UK commented: “I am impressed with the range and quality of the proposed solutions to this important challenge. I am confident that as the finalists roll out their innovations and business plans that we will all learn a great deal about how to improve the living conditions of millions in new ways—I will watch and listen carefully.”

Estimates show that over one billion people face significant risks from extreme heat every year and live without access to electricity for cooling. Another 2.3 billion can afford to purchase air conditioning but only the most inefficient models, which use super polluting F-gases that are thousands of times more damaging to the climate CO2.

Lisa Bate, Chair of the World Green Building Council said: “Our finalists represent three of our most vulnerable warming regions where reducing heat loads is critical to support life on Earth. We look forward to the implementation phase of all of their award-winning, scalable solutions to maximize results.”

The Million Cool Roofs Challenge is an initiative of the Kigali Cooling Efficiency Program, the Global Cool Cities Alliance, Sustainable Energy for All, and Nesta Challenges.

Million Cool Roofs Challenge Finalists

Finalist: ARUP
Project: Cool MEANS (Niger)

Cool MEANS will be delivered by a partnership of four organisations: Arup, Echale, MetaRE, and New Story. The team aims to deliver access to cooling in low-income households in Mexico by integrating a paint developed by MetaRE in the standard housing designs of Echale and New Story. The project will begin with a pilot building to identify and test material supplies, prototype installation methodologies, deliver preliminary training and collect data to validate performance predicted with the simulation tools. This will then produce a toolkit to allow their solution to be scaled up incrementally to other buildings in the community.

Finalist: BRAC University
Project: Use of Innovative Indigenous Materials for Thermal Comfort (Bangladesh)

This project will be implemented by BRAC University in collaboration with local government, business, and academic stakeholders. The team aims to conduct a randomized controlled trial comparing three different strategies for reducing indoor temperature in low-income households in Dhaka, including indigenous insulating materials such as dense coir and bamboo mats. This will use a mixed-method approach, with community engagement and focus group discussions supplementing the quantitative testing.

Finalist: Cool Roof France
Project: Cool Roofers Senegal (Senegal)

Cool Roofers Senegal is an initiative of Cool Roofs France in partnership with Dakar-based eco-construction company Elementerre Sarl. This project is aimed at deploying highly reflective paint to roofs in households and public buildings in low-income neighborhoods in Dakar. The initial pilot project aimed at coating five buildings will kick off a more comprehensive strategy of technology transfer, training, and support to local partners, eventually scaling to 50 buildings in the locality. Cool Roofs France later plans to scale throughout Senegal and beyond, boosting job creation and increasing affordable access to cooling throughout Africa.

Finalist: Cornland International AB
Project: Sumasalamin Sa Sun (Tagalog, meaning “Reflect the sun”) (Philippines)

Sumasalamin Sa Sun is an initiative of Cornland International and Carbonergy Business Consultancy Services. This project will provide high-quality reflective coating for corrugated metal roofs of approximately 100 low-income homes in the Cavite province and on the island of Luzon in the Philippines. Working with international and local charities, the team will deploy cool roofing to 50 homes in impoverished areas.

Finalist: Mercy Corps
Project: Cool Roofs Piloting Initiative (Niger)

Cool Roofs Piloting Initiative in Niger (COROPIN) is an initiative of Mercy Corps. This project is designed to stimulate the private sector and create a market for cool roof solutions and products in Niger while raising awareness and fostering demand for cool roofing solutions. The team plans to achieve this through demonstration projects targeting several levels of engagement: community, local government, national government, private sector, and the general public.

Finalist: Rwanda Green Building Organization
Project: Cooling Rwanda 2020 (Rwanda)

Cooling Rwanda 2020 will be led by the Rwanda Green Building Organization, with GreenA Consultants acting as the technical partner. This project is designed to alleviate cooling challenges in Kigali and beyond, beginning with a number of demonstration projects and awareness campaigns in homes and a variety of government, commercial, and public buildings. A second phase of the project will see the launch of a training and entrepreneurship programs and business matching platforms aimed at scaling the project’s success.

Finalist: Social Tech
Project: Cool Roof Transform Project Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast)

Cool Roof Transform Project Cote d’Ivoire is led by Social Tech in partnership with MonArtisan. Through this initiative, the team will mobilize schools and the surrounding communities to recycle plastic waste and sell it on to recyclers, thereby generating the funds to deploy cool roofing. They will then tap into MonArtisan’s network of painters to apply the coating. The team aims to fund the first 40,000 square meters of cool roofing as a demonstrator project, with the remaining 60 percent financed by the income generated from the recycling.

Finalist: South African National Energy Development Institute
Project: Cool Roofs (South Africa)

Cool Roofs will be implemented by the South African National Energy Development Institute (SANEDI), in partnership with local municipalities. This project is aimed at scaling cool roof solutions in government-subsidized homes throughout South Africa. In each municipality selected, the team intends to deploy at least 25,000 square meters of cool roofing and spread awareness of the benefits of cool roofs among the communities. Working with a professional labor management company, SANEDI will train unemployed local residents to apply the specialized coating in their communities.

Finalist: Steam Plant Ltd
Project: Topps Seal Coating to Create Reflective Roof Surfaces (Kenya)

Topps Seal Coating to Create Reflective Roof Surfaces will be implemented by Steam Plant Ltd in partnership with Topps Products. Based in Nairobi, the Steam Plant team will work with local leaders to sensitize the target communities to the benefits of cool roofing. The project will focus on recruiting and training young people to carry out pilot cool roof projects on key community buildings such as schools and medical clinics. They then plan to scale the project across the country through partnerships with NGOs, national and county-level governments.

Finalist: Universitas Pendidikan Indonesia (UPI)
Project: Driving Climate Action to Combat UHI with @CoolRoofs Tangerang (Indonesia)

Driving Climate Action to Combat UHI with @CoolRoofs Tangerang is an initiative of Universitas Pendidikan Indonesia (UPI), in partnership with the Tangerang Municipality, University of Florida, and Millennium Solutions USA. The team will run a pilot project deploying cool roof materials on six residential, community, and public buildings in the Tangerang municipality of Indonesia. This benchmark project will then be replicated in other municipalities and cities within Indonesia to achieve 1 million square meters of coverage. As part of their project, the team will raise public awareness of cool roofs, provide training programmes in cool roof installation, and scale up local supply chains.

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Feature image credit NESTA.

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