On November 29th, 2012, Baltimore launched its Climate Action Plan. Baltimore CAP was born with the goal of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and making the city more attractive for existing and future residents, visitors, and employers. This way, the Charm City followed in the footsteps of other cities, like New York, Chicago or Washington DC, who had previously undertaken efforts to address sustainability measures and face the challenges of Climate Change.
The plan focuses on four strategies: reducing energy consumption of existing buildings (something that white roofing can help do), promoting generation of renewable energy, expanding and upgrading energy performance for major renovation and new construction, and promoting efficient community energy districts. Among others, the measures to be implemented include mandatory benchmarking and energy audits for city-owned, commercial, industrial, and institutional buildings over 10,000 square feet; encouraging switching from heating oil to natural gas; and promoting cool roof installation and other roof technologies.
The implementation of cool/ white roofing strategies will mean a decrease in cooling energy demand reflected in savings and carbon emission cuts, as well as Urban Heat Island effect mitigation. However, cool roof conversion is voluntary, and Baltimore CAP is not very specific about how it plans to get businesses and individuals involved in the process. Outreach and volunteer efforts seem to be the focus in the short term. Building code modifications is also mentioned; nevertheless, this has not been further developed to date and seems to be a long term intention.
Baltimore’s policies are impacted by the Empower MD Energy Efficiency Act, another sustainability plan that was passed in 2008 by the Maryland General Assembly, and is oriented to reduce energy consumption in the state of Maryland by 15 percent by 2015. As part of this initiative, the five Maryland utilities offer many programs to help reduce energy consumption and allow homes and businesses to save money. Among other incentives, rebates are available for HVAC systems replacement or switching to more energy efficient light fixtures through the Delmarva Power’s Energy Savings Program. With the Home Performance with Energy Star Program, rebates are also available for building envelope upgrades, including air sealing, insulation, window replacement, etc.
Surprisingly, cool roofing implementation is not among the upgrades that qualify for incentives. Advocates in Baltimore are working to put white roofing on the map as an energy consumption reduction strategy and to encourage city leaders to provide incentives for white roofing. Keep up the good work Baltimore.