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To Reduce Heat Stress, Indore Develops Cool Roof Technology

Woman and Child on Roof
Mamta Chouhan, with her infant daughter, on the recently upgraded roof of her house, which was designed to reduce the temperature of her home. Photo credit: Gitika Sansena for Robin Wyatt Vision

As the population of Indore city continues to grow and settlements in some areas increase in density, vulnerable communities are faced with the challenge of poor ventilation. Their homes, which utilize low-cost building materials, including tin roofs, often keep the heat and humidity inside, rendering them almost intolerable in the summer months.

Climate change and associated rising temperatures exacerbate the problem. In urban areas, like Indore, local temperatures often reach higher peaks, referred to as “heat islands,” given the built up area and lack of vegetation. Temperature highs lead to increases in energy demand as individuals and industries require more power to fuel cooling devices. These energy pressures can lead to brown and blackouts, creating cascading impacts when systems are overly centralized and ill-equipped for these additional loads. Not surprisingly, poor and marginalized populations face higher risks of heat stress as they have more limited access to electricity and cooling.

Through the Asian Cities Climate Change Resilience Network, supported by The Rockefeller Foundation and implemented by TARU Leading Edge, an innovative low-cost technique for indoor cooling was developed that can help locals manage high temperatures.

Man on Roof
Cool roof technologies have been piloted in Indore. Vijay Bhargava feels a perceptible difference in indoor temperature. (Photo credit: Gitika Sansena for Robin Wyatt Vision)
The Cool Roof Project uses simple technologies like thermatile, Chinese mosaic, and broken earthen pots, to increase insulation and ventilation, helping to reduce temperatures and—therefore—the associated costs of electricity and water.

Climate-resilient building improvements can reduce dependence on energy and water intensive cooling methods, which are expensive and cost prohibitive for low-income households. The technology has additional benefits as well. For example, while water seepage during monsoon rains used to be a recurring problem, the cool roof has now eliminated this issue.

“Now, we can sit anywhere in the house, not feeling a difference whether we’re upstairs or downstairs. It’s meant that we’ve been able to reduce our air conditioning usage substantially.”

At Mamta Chouhan’s house, located in one of the 50 locations where cool roof technology has been implemented, a perceptible difference in indoor temperature is seen during high heat days. The 200 families who have participated in this project have felt similar impacts as well.

Vijay Bhargava, a resident of Indore, reports that TARU came to him and others with an idea to reduce the temperature in their homes. “I didn’t believe it at first,” he admits, “but then they shared the details, including the potential benefits, and I changed my mind. Afterwards, we felt a five or six degree change. Incredible!”

He adds that he and his family couldn’t even sit upstairs in the summer before. “Now, we can sit anywhere in the house, not feeling a difference whether we’re upstairs or downstairs. It’s meant that we’ve been able to reduce our air conditioning usage substantially.”

Currently, TARU is in the process of conducting a cost-benefit analysis of these houses, and intends to be able to show the Indore Municipal Corporation, real estate developers, and technology providers ways to incorporate cool roofs into future building projects. Through a series of workshops and seminars, they will also promote cool roof technology to broader audiences, including business, which may see the emergence of a new market opportunity to meet emerging needs.

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