Creating cooler buildings in Dhaka – Million Cool Roofs Challenge

24 Feb 2021

‘Cool to be Cool’ is one of ten Boost Awardees for our Million Cool Roofs Challenge, working in Bangladesh. Here, the team tells us more about their approach to scaling up the deployment of sustainable and quality cool roofs.

Guest blog by Malabika Sarker (Professor & Director Center of Excellence Science of Implementation & Scale Up) and Md Shihab Ad din (Research Associate) at the BRAC James P Grant School of Public Health & Architecture Department, BRAC University

Bangladesh is a warm, humid, and tropical country, and one of the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. The ongoing climate crisis threatens Bangladesh’s development and efforts to end poverty and has already led to the displacement of millions of people. Many of the country’s climate migrants often end up in the slums of over-crowded cities, such as Dhaka, where housing is typically constructed from heat-absorbing materials like corrugated tin or iron. This becomes particularly dangerous in summer months, when ambient temperatures are already reaching between 30°C and 40°C. High heat, combined with high humidity, threatens the health – both physical and mental – and productivity of slum residents, students, and workers.

Challenges So Far

So far, one of the biggest challenges we’ve encountered has been engaging local communities in our project. Initially, we didn’t think it would be an issue, but many stakeholders showed reluctance from the beginning – it seems that they weren’t so cool about our cool roofs. However, working in partnership with BRAC Urban Development Programme, we built rapport with the local residents and we were able to set off on our journey to 100,000 ft2 of cool roofs.

 A month or two after the project started, a strange rumor began to spread amongst our participants. They suspected that our temperature logging machines were video recording devices and that the cool roof coating was a corroding substance that would ruin their roofs and destroy their homes. Essentially, they thought we were trying to evict them indirectly. This time, trying to convince them that our efforts were genuine was extremely difficult and tiresome. Thankfully, the local community leaders stepped in to help us, becoming our guarantors and offering reassurance to residents. We now have a very cordial relationship with the local community, and frequently receive requests from residents for their roofs to be painted.

Through this pilot project, we hope to demonstrate the benefits of cool roofs and inspire our partners, garment factory owners, and BRAC Urban Development Program to scale up the initiative. We also want to motivate companies to produce the coating locally in order to make it cheaper and easier to make more of Bangladesh’s roofs cool roofs.

What is the Million Cool Roofs Challenge?

The Million Cool Roofs Challenge is a global competition to rapidly scale up the deployment of highly solar-reflective “cool” roofs in developing countries suffering heat stress and lacking widespread access to cooling services.

Run by the Kigali Cooling Efficiency Program (K-CEP) in collaboration with the Global Cool Cities Alliance, Sustainable Energy for All and Nesta Challenges, the US$2 million challenge awarded US$100,000 grants to teams to deploy solar reflective coating and/or materials in an eligible country. In 2021, US$1 million will be awarded to the team that has demonstrated the best sustainable and transferable model for rapid deployment of cool roofs and meets the judging criteria.

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