‘Enormous impact’: NSW to end the use of dark roofs for new housing construction in a bid to drive down sweltering temperatures

‘Enormous impact’: NSW to end the use of dark roofs for new housing construction in a bid to drive down sweltering temperatures
  • New South Wales will endeavour to ban the use of dark roofs for new residential construction.
  • Along with a lack of green spaces and tree coverage, heat-absorbing materials, like dark roofs, have been blamed for rising ambient temperatures.
  • Lighter materials will help the state combat the problem, Planning and Public Spaces Minister Rob Stokes said Wednesday.
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New South Wales will end the construction of houses with dark roofs, the state government has announced, in an attempt to lower ambient temperatures and improve energy efficiency across the state.

Australian researchers say record high summer temperatures in Sydney’s outer suburbs are partially the result of urban design decisions, with a lack of green spaces and foliage creating a ‘heat island’ effect.

This effect is compounded by dark roofs, which can absorb far more heat than lighter-coloured materials. The result is hotter homes, requiring extra energy to cool in summer, and warmer neighbourhoods, which lower liveability.

In a Wednesday address to the Committee for Sydney, Planning and Public Spaces Minister Rob Stokes said enforcing lighter-coloured roofs is a simple way to improve liveability and lower energy use.

The change “would have an enormous impact on the urban heat island effect in our city, and I will be asking the Department of Planning to implement this as part of our Net Zero Cities approach,” he said.

There are “no practical reasons” why lighter roofs cannot be enforced, he said, to ensure future suburbs do not mirror regions like Penrith — where air temperature readings neared 50 degrees Celsius on 4 January this year.

By saving on energy usage, the move will also help NSW pursue its goal of reaching net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, Stoked added.

“We cannot affect strong climate outcomes without changing the way we build,” Stokes said.

“Embodied energy in our building environment is the next great challenge in achieving net zero.”

The announcement comes several months after the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment unveiled a trial program for Wilton, a suburb in Sydney’s deep south-west, which includes new standards for green space, tree coverage, and light colour palettes for new homes.

In a glancing jab at Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who has proclaimed Australia’s push to net zero will be achieved by yet-to-develop technology, Stokes said, “It’s important that we don’t let these shining new things distract us from the basics of good design and planning… some of the best ideas aren’t necessarily exciting, but they are fundamental to achieving net zero.”

In addition, Stokes voiced his intention to boost the standard Nationwide House Energy Rating Scheme (NatHERS) rating for fresh residential developments will be lifted from 5.5 stars out of ten to 7 stars out of ten.

The finance sector has made some forays to encourage this kind of ‘greener’ development.

Last year, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation announced mortgages for homes with a 7-star NatHERS rating will be eligible for a minor discount

Commonwealth Bank recently revealed its own ‘green’ fixes rate loans, available to homeowners looking to install solar panels, battery packs, and other renewable tech.