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Mass. wants cooler urban centers; a Springfield test of reflective coating looks encouraging

Nov 01, 2023

SPRINGFIELD — The state’s Department of Conservation and Recreation says a pilot project to lower temperatures in city centers is a success.

Now, it plans to push use of a novel reflective coating statewide.

The DCR tested a light-colored reflective coating in the parking lot of the Thomas J. Memorial Swimming Pool and Spray Deck in Springfield last year.

The polymer coating from Streetbond was spread across the pool’s parking lot, which took about two to three weeks and cost $115,000, according to Raul Silva, deputy chief engineer for the DCR.

He said the reflective coating reduces the heat absorbed by the asphalt by 10% to 20%.

In a side-by-side comparison, the DCR found a 15-degree Fahrenheit difference in temperature checks on the property before and after the coating was applied.

A surface temperature check determined the 103.1 degree Fahrenheit reading on July 6, 2023, was 15 degrees lower than the 118.1 degree reading on July 8, 2022.

“It’s more welcoming because it’s a lighter color,” Silva said. “Before you even get out of your car, it sort of feels like you’re in a swimming pool or a recreational facility.”

Annie Holt, of Springfield, and a young swimmer beat the heat at Memorial Swimming Pool and Spray Deck in Springfield Friday afternoon, July 28, 2023. (Hoang 'Leon' Nguyen / The Republican)

The goal of the project is to eliminate heat islands, urbanized areas that experience higher temperatures than outlying areas, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

Less vegetation and more pavement and buildings causes urban areas to become hotter than surrounding areas. That leads to greater demands for electricity, to use air conditioners, poor air quality and heat-related injury and death, according to the EPA.

Black asphalt, which absorbs heat, is an additional factor in what creates an urban heat island.

“We’re super happy with the performance,” Silva said of the test. “We’re now considering using that material on our pool decks.”

Silva said the DCR also plans to apply the coating to pool decks in Western Massachusetts, one of which is the Sara Jane Sherman Memorial Swimming Pool in Chicopee. That could come this fall.

The resurfaced parking lot in Springfield received a mix of reactions from pool staff and visitors.

Liam Ryan, manager of the Thomas Memorial Swimming Pool, said: “It’s definitely noticeable in the parking lot.”

Obovidio Perez, 15, said the ground seemed hotter than it was before.

But resident Jordan Torian said the investment from the state was money well spent. “It doesn’t burn my feet anywhere near as much as it did last year,” he said.

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