Beyond the Build

Construction Trends

Pave the Road to Sustainability

Lately it seems like an increasing number of folks have seen the light when it comes to the drawbacks of dark-colored pavement. Black asphalt has traditionally been the surface of choice for our nation’s roadways and parking lots, but asphalt can act as a heat sink that retains the warmth of sunlight.

The effect is called an “urban heat  island.”  Think about a city like New York in the summer, the asphalt retains the heat, causing the city to be much hotter than the suburbs.

Over the last several years, we have worked a lot of jobs that involved the use of concrete and even crushed limestone over asphalt. These pavements reflect light and heat instead of absorbing it, which has two benefits;

  • First, it cuts down on the amount of solar radiation retained by the earth during the day, which mitigates the greenhouse effect.
  • Second, it significantly reduces the amount of artificial light needed for nighttime illumination, which saves energy.

When you think about pavement that is used for our roads and parking lots, even a slight change in heat and light reduction can have a major impact. Especially when you consider that these gains take place constantly.

Every daytime minute in which less heat is retained and every nighttime moment in which more light is reflected is a small win for our sustainability efforts.  And eventually, enough small wins add up to a huge victory for all of us.

Merrill Stewart Jr.

Merrill Stewart is Founder and CEO of The Stewart/Perry Company, a commercial building contractor based in Birmingham.