By many accounts, 2020 is set to be the warmest year on record. And urbanization isn’t helping. Elements such as asphalt roads, tar roofs and dark-coloured facades hold in warmth, intensifying heat in cities and endangering residents. To mitigate this phenomenon, Dutch architecture firm UNStudio and Swiss manufacturer Monopol Colors have devised a super-white exterior coating system that turns down the temperature in and around buildings.
Dubbed The Coolest White, the high-performance product features a fluoropolymer layer similar to Teflon. But instead of keeping food from sticking to pans, the ultra-reflective paint beams light off steel, aluminum and fibreglass structures to chill the surrounding area. Its high total solar reflectance (TSR) means that the facade beneath the paint isn’t absorbing as much heat, so interior temperatures stay crisp even when the mercury rises. While regular white-painted surfaces absorb around 25 per cent of the sun’s rays, The Coolest White outperforms its pasty cousins with a 12 per cent absorption rate while destroying black paint’s heat-trapping properties, which run up to 95 per cent.
“The brief for architects is clearer than ever before,” says Ben van Berkel, founder of UNStudio. “Make more circular buildings [that] are more sustainable.” Clients in many parts of the world understand that if you bring these values into the built environment and your buildings, that creates much more value over the long term.”
Although it took four years to produce a colour with the desired properties, the work paid off. The studio intends to use the paint on Karle Town Centre, a planned development under construction in Bangalore, India, where average highs range from 27 to 34 degrees Celsius. “Clients in many parts of the world understand that, if you bring these values into the built environment, it creates much more value over the long term,” he says.
Recently, the product was showcased in “State of Extremes,” an exhibition at Israel’s Design Museum Holon. There, visitors could walk around a circular plinth topped with rectangular extrusions suggestive of a city skyline; half of it coated in The Coolest White and half in plain black. An infrared camera captured the temperature difference on both sides – the white portion nearly all blue, aside from the bright red of passers-by. As increasing atmospheric carbon gradually transforms the planet into a sweaty cauldron, the installation underscores the impact designers can make with a simple coat of paint.
Conceived by UNStudio and Monopol Colors, The Coolest White is a unique coating that helps buildings beat the heat.