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Rhino Steel Buildings Blog

Urban Heat Island Effects in the U.S. – Part 7

Beating City Summer Heat with Reflective Surfaces

Our last blog stressed the importance of greenspaces in mitigating urban heat island (UHI) impacts. Another strategy for diminishing the sweltering heat of UHIs involves lighter, more reflective surfaces on buildings, pavements, and roadways.

Starting at the Top with Roofing Choices

Reflective SurfacesRoofs account for 20% to 25% of the land cover in cities.

The simplest way to cool down hot roofs is to choose light-colored roofing materials. Light colors reflect radiated heat; dark colors absorb heat. The darker the material, the hotter its surface will be on a sultry summer day. Regardless of the roofing material used, a lighter color produces a cooler roof.

On a moderate sunny day with an air temperature of 90°F, a white roof reaches a surface temperature of about 110°F. Surface temperatures on a black roof can soar to 190°F or more.

Light-colored roofing lasts longer than dark roofing, too, reaping another environmental and economical plus.

Beating UHI Heat with Cool-Coated Roofing

Traditional roofing materials absorb 85% to 95% of the sun’s energy. New technologies have yielded highly reflective paints that absorb as little as 35% of the solar energy hitting their surface.

Highly reflective cool-coated roofing materials deflect the sun’s heat away from a building. In fact, cool roofing reflects more of the sun’s energy than any other building product. A roof with high solar reflectance reduces the roof’s surface temperature by as much as 50°F to 60°F on a blistering summer day.

Cool roofing allows less heat to transfer to the building, decreasing the energy needed for air conditioning. Diminished air conditioning usage prolongs the life of the AC unit.

Shrinking energy usage relieves the pressure on the power grid— … Read more »

Urban Heat Island Effects in the U.S. – Part 6

Beating Summer Heat with Greenspaces in the Cities

In previous blogs we covered some of the many problems an urban heat island (UHI) inflicts on city-dwelling people, our planet, and our pocketbooks. Now let’s look at the ways we can mitigate the effects of UHIs on our cities.

We Must Combat Urban Heat Islands Matters NOW

GreenspacesToday 80% of all Americans live in cities. Millions more commute to cities daily for employment. UHIs affect the comfort, health, and finances of all these Americans every summer.

Urban heat islands change the environment. When our environment suffers, we suffer. The climate changes wrought by the actions of mankind affect everything and everyone on the planet. Deteriorating air quality and rising temperatures cannot continue unabated.

So what can we do to reduce the effects of urban heat islands?

When a Tree Grows in Brooklyn— and Other Urban Heat Islands

By scraping the landscape completely clean to make room for urban development, we have sacrificed the best way of mitigating urban heat island effects: vegetation.

We need more greenspaces in the cities— a LOT more.

Trees, plants, and grass should be planted everywhere possible in urban areas, including parks, yards, around businesses and buildings, along city streets and highways, parking lots— even on rooftops. Here’s why:

  • Trees not only provide shade to cool hot pavement, but they are also the best defense against air pollution.
  • Plants and trees retain moisture and create an evaporate affect that cools surrounding air. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), evapotranspiration provided by vegetation may reduce peak summer temperatures by as much as 9°F.
  • Trees can … Read more »

Urban Heat Island Effects in the U.S. – Part 5

The Financial Ramifications of Blistering Summer Heat in the Cities

Urban heat island costsAn urban heat island (UHI) impacts people, the planet— and pocketbooks. The financial consequences of UHIs affect governments, insurance companies, and individuals.

Financial Fallout of Urban Heat Islands

Putting an exact price tag on the cost of urban heat islands is impossible. However, it is obvious the costs to our health, our environment, and our financial resources are far too great.

The economic costs of the urban heat island are astounding:

  • Air conditioning in urban heat islands accounts for 15% of all energy expend annually in the U.S.
  • The Heat Island Group estimates that UHIs in Los Angeles cost $100 million each year in increased energy use.
  • According to the EPA, electricity demands increase up to 2% for every 1°F increase in temperature.
  • The hotter summer temperatures in the city hit the poor especially hard. Many of those killed in the Chicago heat wave of 1995 were found in closed, stifling apartments without any air conditioning.
  • Soaring utility bills for sweltering city dwellers strain pocketbooks. People go out in the heat less. Every dollar spent on a higher utility bill is a dollar not spent in the local economy.
  • Businesses in the city suffer financially from UHIs. Astronomical commercial utility bills increase operational expenses, reducing profits. Consumers also hold off on purchases, as they struggle with higher utilities.
  • Medical bills also cut into family budgets, as respiratory and heat-related illnesses escalate in an urban heat island. In 2002, an unusual heat wave across the U.S. increased smog to unsafe levels for over 280 million people. Medical care costs for the increased pollution … Read more »

Urban Heat Island Effects in the U.S. – Part 4

The Environmental Problems Caused by Scorching Summers in the City

In addition to the health problems caused by an urban heat island (UHI), there are also serious environmental consequences.UHI and Environment

Urban heat islands create far-reaching environmental complications that affect not only the city itself, but also surrounding weather patterns, air quality, water quality, ecosystems, and even seasons.

Environmental Impacts of Urban Heat Islands

An urban heat island significantly affects the environment around it:

  • Urban building alters the landscape, displacing natural vegetation and wildlife and disrupting ecosystems.
  • Escalating pollution changes the atmosphere around the heat island. Harmful toxins in the air create ground-level ozone (smog) and acid rain.
  • Rising heat in the atmosphere may increase rainfall and fuel violent thunderstorms.
  • Rural areas downwind of an UHI often experience greater rainfall rates than those areas upwind of the city. Areas downwind from a UHI may also experience a decrease in air quality.
  • Rain falling on overheated pavement becomes superheated. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), pavement at a temperature of 100°F can raise runoff water temperatures by 25°F. As the storm water enters creeks, streams, ponds, and lakes, the water temperature rises, shocking local ecosystems and sometimes killing fish.
  • Urban heat islands lengthen growing seasons, alter wind patterns, and change the surrounding climate dramatically.
  • Higher temperatures in UHIs strain the energy grid, as air conditioning systems struggle to relieve the heat. Power outages and rolling blackouts are common as energy demands peak.
  • Amplified energy production at power plants means increased pollution, adding to the air quality problem.
How Steel Buildings Combat Urban Heat Islands
  • RHINO Steel Building Systems are environmentally friendly, green building systems.
  • Pre-engineered buildings assure the strongest structure with the lease amount of materials.
  • All RHINO structures contain recycled steel … Read more »

Urban Heat Island Effects in the U.S. – Part 3

The Health Problems Caused by Sizzling Summer Heat in the Cities

UHI- health problemsThe urban heat island (UHI) phenomena causes scorching temperatures every summer in many major U.S. cities. This sweltering summer heat makes cities uncomfortable, energy draining, unhealthy— and deadly.

Health Consequences of Urban Heat Islands

Summer heat is absorbed and magnified by the city infrastructure. Relentless temperatures promote asthma attacks, respiratory problems, heart attacks, heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke in overheated city dwellers. The heat also kills.

Consider these UHI facts:

  • The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates excessive heat exposure contributed to 8,000 deaths in the U.S. from 1979-2003.
  • Heat is America’s number one weather-related killer. Excessive heat kills more people in the U.S. each year than earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, lightning, and tornadoes combined, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
  • On average, almost 700 Americans die each year from heat-induced illnesses, according to the CDC.
  • In one excruciating week during the summer of 1995, an oppressive heat wave rocked Chicago. The heat index rose to 120°F. City roads buckled. Train rails warped. Energy use skyrocketed. Power grids failed. Thousands developed heat-related disorders. Over 700 died.
  • A crushing heat wave in Paris, France in 2003 killed 4,800 people.
  • The elderly and the poor are particularly vulnerable to heat-related premature deaths.

Pollution increases in an urban heat island. Tall buildings block cooling breezes, leaving the over-heated air still and stagnant.

Exhausted, over-heated people seek relief by pushing air conditioning to the limit in business and homes. Power plants struggle to keep up with demand, resulting in the release of more greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide flourishes, adding its noxious fumes to the toxic mix. Ground-level ozone forms as … Read more »

Urban Heat Island Effects in the U.S. – Part 2

What Causes City Temperatures to Soar in Summer?

In part 1 of this series, we covered the basic definition of an urban heat island (UHI). We also revealed twenty U.S. cities which have been 22°F to 28°F warmer than nearby rural areas.

But why are summers in the city so much hotter than surrounding rural locations?

The Main Causes of Urban Heat Island

Urban Heat Island 02DENSITY: Cities are crowded with buildings, streets, highways, and people.

Over 255 million Americans now live in cities. In some urban areas, like Manhattan Island, the daytime population almost doubles as people commute to work in the city.

Downtown areas run out of space and start building up, creating skyscrapers. Multi-level buildings require multi-level parking garages. With so many surfaces to heat up and hold temperatures, it is no wonder summer temperatures climb.

PAVEMENT: As the number of people traveling within a city increases, so does the need for more roads, highways, and parking.

Asphalt and concrete hold tremendous heat. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates pavement covers 30% to 45% of urban areas. According to the EPA, roadway materials can reach temperatures of 120°F to 150°F during the summer. The daytime heat tends to stay trapped in these materials, cooling very, very slowly at night.

EMISSIONS: All the cars, trucks, motorcycles, trains, and buses traveling to and through the cities add to UHI problems. The Database of Road Transportation Emissions estimates urban areas are responsible for 63% of the total annual emissions.

Air conditioners cool inside air and eject hot air outside. The higher the temperature, the more air conditioners are pumping heated air into the surrounding area. Outside temperatures increase even more, forcing air conditioners to … Read more »

Urban Heat Island Effects in the U.S. – Part 1

Why Summer in the City Is Becoming Unbearable

In 1966, the band Lovin’ Spoonful complained about the urban heat island phenomena in their blockbuster hit “Summer in the City.”

Today, summer in an urban heat island is even worse.

Urban Heat IslandIn the years since “Summer in the City” rose to the top of the charts, Los Angeles, California’s’ average summer temperature has risen about 5°F (-15°C). Louisville, Kentucky’s average summer temperatures rose approximately 8.4°F (-13.1°C) during the same time period.

Urban heat islands are nothing new.

Since the early 1800s, those living in large, heavy populated cities have known summer in the city is much hotter than in the countryside. In the 1800s, wealthy Europeans often fled their capitals every summer, preferring to reside in cooler coastal regions over the summer months. (Remember, those poor blokes had no air conditioning or even electric fans, and the clothing styles of the day had to have been beyond uncomfortable.) The poor had to stay in the overcrowded cities and simple endure the summer.

So What Is an “Urban Heat Island”?

An urban heat island (UHI) is any metropolitan area which is substantially warmer than the surrounding rural areas. Densely populated and densely built, these cities create heat greater than normal surface temperatures.

Extra heat accumulated in an UHI during a summer day does not dissipate well at night, as it does in rural areas. In fact, the difference between city temperatures and cooler rural temperatures is even greater at night than in the day!

Dark rooftops, tall buildings, dark asphalt, lack of trees and plants, and heavy traffic all contribute to the UHI problem.

Dark surfaces absorb heat— and hold it. Tall buildings block any surface winds that would ordinarily help cool the … Read more »

Pre-engineered Metal Buildings in MONTANA

The Advantages of Steel Buildings in Big Sky Country

Metal buildings in Montana meet all the varied needs of Big Sky residents. The durability and versatility of pre-engineered steel buildings make them the perfect answer for residential outbuildings or commercial and industrial structures.

Incredible Strength of Steel

metal-buildings-MONTANAAs a former resident of Billings, I know the incredible variations in climate and topography across Big Sky create unique challenges for steel buildings in Montana.

High winds across the plains and heavy snows in the mountains demand extra strong structures.

Steel is the perfect building material for Montana. Steel boasts the strongest weight-to-strength ratio of any building material. RHINO steel buildings offer built-in protection from high winds and heavy snows. Steel buildings are also highly resistant to damage from the earthquakes, lightning, fire, mold, and termites that sometimes plague the state.

Pre-engineered Metal Buildings in Montana

Pre-engineered steel buildings are so versatile, they can be adapted to any application.

Need a new strip mall, big-box store, or office building in Billings? Is your congregation planning a new church building in Missoula? Perhaps your next investment is a new restaurant in Great Falls. Or maybe your ranch near Butte could use a bigger barn, stable, or a new indoor riding arena.

Whether you are planning a self-storage facility in Bozeman, a manufacturing plant in Helena, a bowling alley in Havre, or an auto parts store in Kalispell, steel is your best building choice.

Prefabricated steel buildings in Montana also serve well for personal use structures. Wouldn’t you love extra storage space, a larger garage, a workshop, a man cave, a mountain cabin, or a private home office? If so, build it with steel.

Hooked on RHINO Steel Buildings

RHINO steel buildings are green structures, too.

Steel is the most … Read more »

Recycling Construction and Demolition Debris- Part 3

The Benefits of Recycling and Reusing C&D Waste

Researching construction and demolition debris makes me think of the animated movie “WALL·E.”

Recycling Benefits of C and DIn the movie, the world was overrun with garbage. The people abandoned the Earth in luxury spaceships, leaving automated robots to clean up the planet. Seven hundred years later, only the little robot WALL·E remained functioning, diligently crushing trash into cubic foot squares stacked as high as skyscrapers.

Every movie has a hero. The intrepid little rusty robot is the hero in “WALL·E.” Recycling is the hero in the environmental movement.

Why Recycling C&D Waste Matters

Every item salvaged from construction and demolition (C&D) debris for recycling helps in five basic ways:

  • Reducing the sheer volume of debris dumped in landfills or burned.
  • Conserving raw materials needed to recreate the building material.
  • Decreasing the environmental impacts, greenhouse emissions, water waste, and energy required to extract and manufacture virgin building materials.
  • Creating 19,000 jobs. C&D recycling boosts the economy with $7.4 billion in annual revenues.
  • Saving money on building projects by buying recycled products and controlling disposal costs— and reaping the benefits of green building certifications, rebates, and tax credits where applicable.
Steel: The Hero of C&D Recycling

According to “C&D World,” 70% of construction and demolition debris is now recycled. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says only 40% of C&D material was recycled just 12 years ago.

Materials recycled at building sites typically include asphalt, cardboard and packaging materials, concrete, lumber, metals like steel, pavement (from parking lots), roofing materials, and wallboard.

Most building materials are down-cycled into less significant products. For example, wood is chipped up for mulch and concrete is ground for use as a road base.

Steel scrap pull quoteSteel, however, recycles easily into more high-quality steel.

New … Read more »

Recycling Construction and Demolition Debris- Part 2

Out of the Rubble: Coping with Disaster Debris

As we said in Part 1 of this series, construction and demolition debris includes waste generated by natural disasters.

Disaster DebrisEarthquakes, tornadoes, floods, hurricanes, and fires create massive amounts of rubble. Devastated cities and towns, already overcome by the human crisis, face the insurmountable task of clean up in the aftermath of destruction.

How Much Construction and Demolition Debris is Generated in Disasters?

Every natural catastrophe produces its own signature of construction and demolition debris.

The amount of destruction is unbelievable: Look at these figures on recent disasters:

  • In August 1989, Hurricane Hugo made landfall in Charleston, North Carolina, before cutting a swath of destruction inland. Hugo ground up and spit out 18 million cubic feet of debris in Charleston— an estimated 200,000 dump truck loads. Hugo toppled 80,000 trees in Charleston. The storm decimated 70% of the trees on the Francis Marion National Forest in South Carolina— a total of six billion board feet of lumber. In Mecklenburg County, North Carolina— 200 miles from Charleston— Hugo created over 400,000 tons of shredded trees, shrubbery, and landscaping— ten years of green waste generated in just three hours! It took 16 months to complete the mulching.
  • In August 1992, Hurricane Andrew devastated Dade County, Florida, creating 387 million cubic feet of disaster debris, destroying and damaging over 150,000 homes and thousands of businesses. Over 500,000 tons of splintered trees and wood were mulched and distributed to farms, parks, landscapers, and individuals.
  • In May through September of 1993, floods covered 20 million acres in the Midwest, destroying 50,000 homes and thousands of businesses. Seventy-five communities … Read more »

Recycling Construction and Demolition Debris- Part 1

Introduction to Construction and Demolition Waste in the U.S.

Disposing of construction and demolition (C&D) rubble creates an enormous problem in the U.S. Finding room for all that waste is a monumental task.

How Much C&D Debris is Produced?

In an earlier post, we discussed the 251 million tons of municipal solid waste (MSW) generated annually in the U.S. However, that appalling figure does not include construction and demolition waste.

C and D Waste 02Approximations vary wildly on the total amount of construction and demolition waste. Many states do not supply C&D data. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) does not confirm the data supplied by the states that do offer waste statistics.

However, conservative estimates put American construction and demolition waste approaching 460 million tons annually— almost double the amount of MSW. That is up from 160 million tons of C&D waste in 2003.

However much C&D waste is actually created, the majority of it winds up dumped into landfills.

What Is Included in C&D Waste?

Construction and demolition waste includes bulky materials like:

• Asphalt • Brick • Carpeting and flooring • Concrete • Corrugated cardboard • Electrical materials • Glass • Gypsum from drywall • Insulation • Lumber, plywood and paneling • Paving material • Plastics • Plumbing pipe and fixtures • Rocks • Shingles • Soil • Metals including steel, aluminum and copper • Tree stumps and site rubble • Vinyl siding

Reuse and Recycling C&D Debris

“Deconstruction” dismantles a structure piece by piece, rather than smashing the structure down with a wrecking ball or heavy equipment.

Many materials— like steel and other metals, untreated lumber, asphalt, concrete, roofing, and wallboard— can be saved and recycled at other facilities.

Steel is particularly easy to recycle. Its magnetic qualities separating steel from other C&D debris easy and economical.

Make your next building a green building framed with environmentally friendly, … Read more »

Memorial Day: Recreation and Remembrance

Honoring Those Americans Who Gave All for Our Freedom

It is the eve of the Memorial Day Weekend, marking the start of the summer season. People are busy with plans for family picnics, camp-outs, boating, three-day vacations, shopping holiday sales, or just chilling out.

But Memorial Day should mean so much more.

Memorial DayMemorial Day was intended as a day to honor those who died in the service of their country.

The Origins of Memorial Day

Many communities across the U.S. had individual days designated for cleaning up cemeteries and remembering the fallen. However, widespread recognition did not begin until 1865, when the federal government started establishing national cemeteries for fallen Union soldiers.

More than 600,000 soldiers died during the Civil War. Both sides honored their dead in local ceremonies.

General John A. Logan, commander-in-chief of the Union’s veteran organization the Grand Army of the Republic, called for a nationwide observance. On May 5, 1868, Logan issued a proclamation declaring May 30 as “Decoration Day.” On that day, the graves of both Union and Confederate soldiers were decorated with flowers and ribbons at Arlington National Cemetery. Five thousand people participated in the effort to adorn the 20,000 graves.

In 1967, Congress officially changed the name of Decoration Day to Memorial Day.

In 1971, Congress passed the National Holiday Act, which moved the dates of four holidays— Columbus Day, President’s Day, Memorial Day, and Labor Day— to form three-day weekends. Now Memorial Day is observed on the last Monday in May.

Shifting Memorial Day succeeded in turning what was once a day of remembrance and appreciation into an excuse for a three-day weekend blowout.

Traditions of Memorial Day

Thousands still volunteer to place flowers and flags on the graves of soldiers and sailors every Memorial Day.

American flags fly at half-mast … Read more »

Is Steel a Sustainable Building Material?

Steel Buildings Help Preserve Our Resources for Future Generations

To meet the criteria for green building, a product needs to be “sustainable.” But what does sustainable mean?

Sustainable SteelSustainable building materials minimize environmental impacts while maximizing efficient use. Sustainability meets present needs without sacrificing future needs.

Most natural resources are finite. If we squander those resources today, we compromise the lives and options of future generations.

Sustainable Characteristics of Steel

Steel’s two main ingredients are iron and recycled steel.

Iron is one of the Earth’s most plentiful elements. However, the real secret of steel’s sustainability is its amazing recycling abilities:

  • Steel is 100% recyclable.
  • Modern steel processing allows for an extremely high recycled content.
  • Steel loses none of its qualities or strength— no matter how many times it is recycled.
  • There is potentially no limit to how many times steel can be recycled.
  • Once steel is produced, it becomes a permanent resource for new steel.
  • About 98% of all steel is collected for recycling.
  • Creating new steel from recycled steel drastically cuts energy usage.
  • Magnetic separation makes steel simple and economical to recycle.

A product must have at least 25% recycled content to be considered a “green” material. All structural steel today contains a high recycled content. RHINO steel building framing contains as much as 90.7% recycled content. The LEED system (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) awards structural steel its maximum numerical rating.

Steel: Minimizing Environmental Impacts

The steel industry has made amazing strides in minimizing the environmental impacts of steel production.

  • Today’s steel is 40% stronger than steel produced just 25 years ago.
  • Producing steel today uses 67% less energy than it did 35 years ago.
  • Greenhouse emissions for steel production are 45% less than 40 years ago.
  • Today, 95% of all water used in steel production is recycled. Now … Read more »

Confessions of a Reluctant Tree Hugger

How a Steel Building Man Became a Tree Lover

After spending my entire career in the steel building business, I never expected to become a “tree hugger.” After all, wood framing is the natural nemesis of metal buildings. Yet the truth can no longer be ignored. I have become a closet tree lover.

Trees Are Air-Scrubbing Wonders

Tree huggerTrees are living, growing, breathing things. That is the whole point. As long as they remain alive and growing, they continue to benefit us all. Once chopped down and hauled away to the mill, they become structural fuel for fire, termites, mold— and ultimately landfill fodder.

Left alone to grow and mature, trees actually clean our atmosphere. Trees breathe in carbon dioxide from our polluted air and breathe out life-sustaining oxygen into our atmosphere. The more trees we have on the planet, the better our air quality becomes.

According to the North Carolina State University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, a single tree absorbs 40 pounds of carbon dioxide annually. Experts estimate U.S. forests remove over 1.5 trillion pounds of carbon dioxide in a single year. That alone is reason enough to love trees— and hate their destruction.

According to the World Wildlife organization, 58,000 square miles of forest are destroyed each year. That is about 36 football field-sized forests EVERY MINUTE!

Deforestation taking away our single greatest asset in combating air pollution. It is also screwing with animal and insect populations and bio-diversity in irreparable ways.

Wood Framing vs. Steel Framing

Don’t get me wrong. I still believe pre-engineered steel buildings are far superior to wood-framed structures. There is a great difference between loving trees and loving wood building.

The evidence remains clear:

Recycling Saves Energy

Double the Benefits: Stretch Resources and Conserve Energy

Recycling reuses materials wisely. It is resource efficient. By recycling, we get more use from a material, avoiding dumping the material in a landfill— and conserve precious energy while we are doing it.

Save Energy by RecyclingHow Does Recycling Save Energy?

Every raw material requires energy to be turned into a product. Producing consumer goods from virgin raw materials uses a lot of energy resources. Processing goods from recycled materials requires far less energy.

Recycled materials have been processed at least once. Turning recycled materials into new products is not only cleaner than using raw materials, it also demands far less energy.

Let us look at specific examples of energy savings possible with recycled materials.

RECYCLED ALUMINUM:

  • The U.S. produces nearly 3.5 billion tons of aluminum each year.
  • America recycles 100,000 aluminum cans per minute.
  • Only 45% of aluminum cans are currently being recovered for recycling. If ALL the aluminum cans used annually were recycled, we would save enough energy to light Washington D.C. for 3.7 years!
  • The aluminum cans produce in the U.S. in just one year, if laid end-to-end, could circle the globe— 169 times!
  • It takes 95% less energy to produce an aluminum soda can from recycled cans than from raw material.
  • Every ton of aluminum recycled saves 237.6 million Btu’s of energy, 40 barrels of oil, 270 cubic feet of landfill space— and prevents 10 tons of carbon emissions.

RECYCLED NEWSPAPERS:

  • Today, 75% of all old newspapers are recycled in the U.S. — about 12.4 million tons per year.
  • Recycled newsprint makes up 30% of newspapers.
  • Recycled newspapers are also used to create other products, including cereal boxes, egg cartons, grocery bags, insulation, tissue paper, and other packaging and products.
  • Newsprint can be recycled four times before the fiber breaks down too … Read more »