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Heat Island Effect

Urban Heat Island Mitigation

Many communities are taking action to reduce urban heat islands using four main strategies:  1) increasing tree and vegetative cover, 2) installing green roofs (also called "rooftop gardens" or "eco-roofs"), 3) installing cool—mainly reflective—roofs, and 4) using cool pavements. The links below lead to detailed information on these strategies and summaries of the activities that governments and communities are implementing.

Further down on this page is an overview of the benefits of reducing urban heat islands.

Heat Island Reduction Program logo

Strategies and Technologies

Federal, State, and Local Actions

Benefits of Mitigation

The extent to which urban areas can benefit from heat island reduction strategies depends on a number of factors—some within and some outside of a community's control. Although prevailing weather patterns, climate, geography, and topography are beyond the influence of local policy, decision makers can select a range of energy-saving strategies that will generate multiple benefits, including vegetation, landscaping, and land use design projects, and improvements to building and road materials.

  • Trees, vegetation, and green roofs can reduce heating and cooling energy use and associated air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, remove air pollutants, sequester and store carbon, help lower the risk of heat-related illnesses and deaths, improve stormwater control and water quality, reduce noise levels, create habitats, improve aesthetic qualities, and increase property values.

  • Cool roofs can lower cooling energy use, peak electricity demand, air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, heat-related incidents, and solid waste generation due to less frequent re-roofing.

  • Cool pavements can indirectly help reduce energy consumption, air pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions. Depending on the technology used, cool pavements can improve stormwater management and water quality, increase surface durability, enhance nighttime illumination, and reduce noise.

Using these strategies in combination can enhance their effectiveness.  For example, installing a permeable pavement parking lot that includes shade trees can extend the longevity of the pavement and vegetation. 

Widespread implementation of these strategies also provides additional benefits. For example, a single cool roof will mainly result in benefits to the building owner and occupants. Community-wide cool roof installations, though, will provide savings to the building owner and occupants and to the community at large, as a large number of cool roofs can reduce air temperatures, resulting in multiple benefits associated with cooler summertime air.


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