PHILADELPHIA - The Energy Coordinating Agency of Philadelphia (ECA), the city of Philadelphia, and the Dow Chemical Co. have announced the “Coolest Block” contest, which allows residents of Philadelphia row homes to compete to win an energy-saving cool roof as well as air sealing and insulation for their entire block.

“Row homes are part of Philadelphia’s history and charm and have long been a unique architectural feature of the city,” said Liz Robinson, executive director, ECA. “The black asphalt roofs typically found on row homes not only contribute to increased energy consumption, they deteriorate more quickly than a white cool roof and can affect the structural integrity of the whole building. Our goal with the Coolest Block contest is to both conserve energy and preserve these historical homes.”


Cool roofs are energy-saving white roofs that reflect the sun’s heat and help prevent it from being absorbed into the roof and house. Traditional black asphalt roofs soak up heat and allow it to transfer into the upper floors of the home, putting a strain on air conditioning units and increasing energy costs. White cool roofs can reduce the cost of cooling a home by as much as 20 percent, say the organizations, and the exterior of the roof can be 50 to 80 degrees cooler than a black asphalt roof on a hot summer day. Cool roofs are also highly durable and require less maintenance and replacement than typical asphalt roofs.

Cool roofs are also a way to combat urban heat island effect, a phenomenon marked by higher temperatures and poorer air quality in cities than in surrounding areas. The urban heat island effect is caused by large expanses of asphalt and black top in urban areas, the density of man made structures, combined with relatively little vegetation or green space. This can cause temperatures to be 10 to 15 degrees warmer in cities than in surrounding suburban and rural areas on hot summer days.


According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), proper insulation and air sealing of the home can reduce heating and cooling costs by as much as 30 percent. Air infiltration - which often occurs between walls and floors, around windows and doors, and through other gaps and cracks - can account for as much as 40 percent of heat loss in homes, says the DOE. One of the best ways to insulate and air seal a row home is to use insulating foam sealants, which expand on contact to help bridge these openings, keeping heat outside during the summer and inside during the winter.

Scott Young, global director, Energy Efficiency Portfolio, Dow Building Solutions, said, “Dow is committed to practical, energy-efficient solutions that make a difference in people’s lives. With our technology to help create cool roofs and our insulation and air sealing products, homeowners can look forward to more comfortable temperatures in their homes and significant savings on their monthly energy bills.”


Contest entrants will be judged on a range of criteria, but blocks with the most residents signed up have the best chance of winning. Residents must submit a group entry through one block coordinator. The coordinator may be self-selected or may be one of the city’s block captains who volunteer to organize their block activities on a regular basis.

Along with a cool roof, the winning block will receive:

• An energy audit assessing where insulation and air sealing products could help improve the home’s energy efficiency.

• Installation of Dow’s air sealants and insulation products in the participating contestants’ residential homes, in both the basement and the attic to help increase comfort and energy savings.

Entries will be reviewed by a panel of judges that includes representatives from local media, environmental organizations, and the building industry. The deadline for entry is April 5, 2010. More information and the official contest rules are available at

Publication date:03/22/2010