[Editorial Analysis] Cool Roofs and other solutions

Mains Paper 3: Environment
Prelims level: cool roofs programme
Mains level: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment


• India is among the most rapidly urbanising countries in the world.

• In 2018, nearly 34% of the country’s population lived in the cities — this is expected to increase to 40% by 2030, contributing 75% of the GDP.

• Driven by growing urbanisation, the real estate sector contributed 6-7% of the GDP in 2017 — will increase to 13% by 2025, notwithstanding temporary setbacks due to the pandemic.

• The exponential growth in urbanisation implies using up most of the open spaces in urban and semi-urban areas and creating more of paved surface cover, heat-trapping roofs, buildings and roads.

Heat island:

• The term “heat island” describes built up areas that are hotter than nearby rural areas. The annual mean air temperature of a city with 1 million people or more can be 1.8–5.4°F (1–3°C) warmer than its surroundings.

• In the evening, the difference can be as high as 22°F (12°C). Heat islands can affect communities by increasing summertime peak energy demand, air conditioning costs, air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, heat-related illness and mortality, and water pollution.

Buildings- major contributors:

• Often, buildings are one of the major contributors to incremental heat generation.

• More than 60% of the roofs are made of concrete, metal and asbestos, all of which tend to trap heat.

• Over time, these hot surfaces worsen the heat island effect and drive temperatures higher.

• Further, buildings account for more than 30% of India’s electricity consumption and a significant share of annual carbon dioxide emissions.

• It is thus imperative that any effort towards energy conservation must include a focused approach to urban areas and more specifically on buildings and built-up areas.

Mercers quality of living index:

• Hyderabad has been rated as the best city in India in the Mercers Quality of Living Index for the last six years.

• Hyderabad, since the second quarter of 2019, is also the fastest-growing real estate market in the country.

• The commercial/institutional office space, which was 100 million square feet in 2015, is likely to double by 2021.

Telangana example:

• In the short-term, it’s crucial to ascertain how to respond to extreme heat and urbanisation challenges during a major pandemic.

• In the medium and long-term, we need proactive pre-disaster actions to reduce risk and to invest in forward-looking plans, policies and programmes to ensure we make the right choices to balance urban growth and sustainable development.

• In the context of the urban built-up space, there is an opportunity upfront by ensuring the buildings are built smart.

• Telangana has taken steps to ensure energy efficiency in its buildings by incorporating the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE)’s Energy Conservation Building Code (ECBC).

• ECBC sets minimum efficiency standards for all commercial buildings, including categories such as multiplexes, hospitals, hotels and convention centres.

• This will go a long way in ensuring the environmental footprint of the sector is controlled.

Cool roofs in low cost:

• Additionally, there exist low-cost solutions to reduce the heat stress in homes and offices and bring down the dependence on air conditioners.

• Cool roofs, for example, offer a simple and a cost-effective answer to urbanisation challenges.

• Cool roofs reflect sunlight and absorb less heat.

• Depending on the setting, they can help lower indoor temperatures by 2 to 4 degrees Celsius as compared to traditional roofs.

• These roofs also potentially lead to less air pollution since they save energy, especially on cooling appliances, such as fans and air conditioners.

Telangana cool roofs programme:

• The Government of Telangana, realising the importance of low-cost cool-roofing technology, has already undertaken several meaningful interventions.

• Telangana tested these technologies through pilots undertaken in 2017.

• As part of the state’s building energy efficiency programme to implement a cool roofs pilot in low-income neighbourhoods to showcase the benefits and impact of cool roofs in the city.

• The project focused on a set of 25 low-income households.

• Dupont India supplied a high-density polyethylene (HDPE) cool roof coating membrane called Tyvek.

• The results found that indoor air temperatures were observed to be lower by an average of 2 degrees Celsius in the homes with cool roofs as compared to similar homes without cool roofs.

• Working with knowledge partners, the Telangana Cool Roofs Programme has been designed and is ready for implementation.

• The programme is a target-based initiative to increase the percentage of cool roofs in the state.

• The programme will aim to install cool roofs in low-income housing and slum communities in the initial years, where the thermal comfort of the occupants is of paramount importance.

• Commercial buildings are also an important segment, given the rising footprint of the commercial activity in the state.

• While cool roofs have already been included in the prescriptive requirements of the state’s energy conservation building code, the government will eventually look to mandate the adoption in the latter years of the programme.


• A robust awareness generation and capacity building campaign is also a part of the programme.

• While it is important to focus on targets, the realisation of those targets has to be ensured through a well-functioning ecosystem of suppliers and installers.

• What is required at this stage is large scale marketing of the concept to make builders and owners aware of the advantages in terms of energy and cost savings.


Prelims Questions:

Q.1) With reference to India’s External Debt at the end of March 2020, consider the following statements:

1. Commercial borrowings remained the largest component of external debt, with a share of 39.4 %, followed by non-resident deposits (23.4 %) and short-term trade credit (18.2 %).

2. US dollar denominated debt continued to be the largest component of India’s external debt.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2

Answer: C

Mains Questions:

Q.1) What is the Mercers quality of living index? What is the significance of the cool roofs programme for sustainable development?

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