Dezeen Magazine

UNStudio develops The Coolest White paint to cool down our cities

UNStudio and Monopol Colors have created an extremely reflective white paint that can reduce the amount of heat buildings absorb and cool cities in the face of climate change.

By limiting the amount of light and therefore heat a building absorbs, the paint reduces the need for air-conditioning and the impact of urban heat islands.

Named The Coolest White, the paint developed by Dutch architecture studio UNStudio with Swiss paint manufacturer Monopol Colors, is part of an increasing trend for architects and designers to consider the impact of their work on the environment.

"It is undisputed that our cities are rapidly getting hotter, so we have to ask ourselves how we can stop this trend," said principal architect of UNStudio Ben van Berkel.

"On the one hand, The Coolest White makes buildings more resilient, and on the other hand it can drastically reduce the urban heat load."

Paint will reduce heat absorbed by buildings

As The Coolest White reflects more of the sun's rays than other paints it can be used to protect buildings from excessive solar radiation, reduce the impact of urban heat islands and in turn the amount of energy required to cool down buildings internally.

UNStudio is hoping to use The Coolest White to cover an entire district in South East Asia.

The paint works on the principle that dark materials, which are used to construct many buildings, reflect less and absorb more heat from sunlight that lighter materials.

The reflectiveness of a material is measured by its total solar reflection (TSR) value, which is measured on a scale of one to 100. The higher the TSR value the more a material will reflect the sun's rays and reduce the amount of heat a building absorbs.

The Coolest White can "cool down a complete city"

The Coolest White has an extremely high TSR value of over 80, while other white materials have a value of 70–75. According to Monopol Colors dark colours usually have a TSR of between 15 and 35.

"With The Coolest White we have less heat absorption in the city, and we have better room climate, so we need less energy for air conditioning. So what we are doing with The Coolest White is that we are cooling down a complete city," said Tim Kröger, head of laboratory at Monopol Colors.

"The scale of impact will be at the urban scale, as it aims to lower the urban heat island effect."

The Coolest White has been created to have a very high total solar reflection value

UNStudio created the product, which is certified and available to purchase, as it recognised that a small change had the potential to make a large difference.

"We identified that we were missing this kind of technology in our projects: a technology that could bring a nano-solution; that would be simple yet advanced, social but scientific and that would allow us to contribute in a scalable way to one of today's most pressing issues: climate change," van Berkel told Dezeen.

Humans impact on the earth was thrust into the limelight when the United Nations published its Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report last year, which highlighted the impact that climate change will have on the planet. The report shone a light on geoengineering – large-scale interventions that could counteract global warming.

Architects and designers are proposing ways to deal with the impending catastrophe. At a Dezeen talk following the report designers said that we "need more science fiction" to save the planet, while Darran Anderson believes that "we need architecture that is more than just green".

"We believe that we are responsible as architects for influencing how we build our environment and that we have to collaborate with other industries to develop technologies that will support a global effort to balance the use of energy and create healthier cites and buildings," added van Berkel.

At the other end of the light spectrum, Vantablack is the blackest black in the world. Indian-born British artist Anish Kapoor has exclusive rights to use the material, which can absorb 99.96 per cent of light.

In response to Kapoor's ownership artist Stuart Semple has launched a series of dark paints to rival Vantablack. He describes the latest, Black 3.0, as the "flattest, mattest, black acrylic paint in the world".