A Sydney Suburb Is Combating Climate Change by Requiring Light-Colored Roofs and a Tree in Every Yard

Trees decrease degrees.
Trees decrease degrees. / Lisa-Blue/iStock via Getty Images

If you’ve ever walked barefoot across asphalt, you probably know just how hot dark-colored surfaces can get under the withering summer sun: quite a bit hotter than light-colored surfaces. And you might assume that if, say, all the houses in an entire region had light-colored roofs rather than dark ones, it could possibly help decrease the temperature of the region overall.

This is exactly what officials are trying to do in the Wilton Growth Area, a quickly expanding region southwest of Sydney, Australia. As The Independent reports, they recently released development plans [PDF] mandating that all residential buildings constructed from this point on “use, where possible, recycled and renewable materials, lighter-colored roofs, and use lighter-colored materials and finishes on main external parts of the building.”

“We need to say goodbye to the trend of having dark roofs that not only attract and retain heat and raise ambient street temperatures, but lead to astronomical electricity bills because of the need to cool homes,” Rob Stokes, New South Wales’s minister for planning and public spaces, told The Sydney Morning Herald.

Not everyone appreciated the directive. Stephen McMahon, New South Wales’s branch president of the Urban Development Institute of Australia, described the change to The Sydney Morning Herald as “bureaucratically imposed blandness” that wouldn’t mitigate high temperatures better than other measures could. But others have agreed that cooler roofs are an easy way to combat rising temperatures and energy consumption in the area due to climate change. And since Wilton is experiencing such rapid growth—9000 new homes are currently slated for the expansion—the local government is recognizing the need to make sure that growth happens in the most eco-conscious way possible.

In addition to bureaucratically imposed blandness, the development plan also requires each lot of a certain size to have a tree planted in its front and back yards. The resulting canopy is expected to keep the area cooler.

“Our aim is to make Wilton more than liveable—we want it to be resilient,” Nathaniel Smith, MP for a municipality in New South Wales, said in a press release. “A place where the natural environment, new homes, and even entire neighborhoods complement each other.”

[h/t The Independent]