City introduces coolest block contest

Think you live on the coolest block in Philly?

Win a contest launched by Mayor Michael Nutter and the thermometer might agree with you.

Contestants on the winning block will each receive a new, cool roof for their row homes, and other energy-saving products, provided by the Dow Chemical Company Foundation.

It’s all part of Nutter’s goal to make Philadelphia the greenest city in the nation.

“Our Greenworks Philadelphia goal is to retrofit 15 percent of the city’s row home roofs, and the ‘Coolest Block’ contest is jumpstarting this effort,” Nutter said in a printed statement Wednesday. “But changing the roof is only part of the package.  Dow, our partner in this initiative, has taken a truly comprehensive approach providing, insulation and air-leak prevention upgrades to the homes on the winning block – truly maximizing the energy-saving impact.  I encourage all Philadelphians to get involved in this contest that will save energy, and save you money!”

The Energy Coordinating Agency of Philadelphia is another contest partner.  Executive Director Liz Robinson said Philadelphia’s row homes have a lot of charm, but were built before technologies like the ones offered through the contest were available.

Traditional black asphalt roofs soak up the sun’s heat and allow its transfer between the exterior and the interior of the house.  White cool roofs, on the other hand, bounce off solar energy to prevent it from being absorbed into the roof and house.  Consequently, they reduce the amount of energy needed to cool the living space and bring the cost of cooling a home down. Replacing a black asphalt roof with a white cool roof and upgrading the air seal and insulation in the home can yield a 30 percent savings on energy bills, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

The homes on the winning block won’t just be cooler on the inside. They will also help fight the urban heat island phenomenon. The roofs stay 50 to 80 degrees cooler on a hot day than do their asphalt equivalents, according to the city press release.

“We are proud to be able to help the Philadelphia neighborhoods become more energy-efficient, more comfortable and healthier,” said Jerome Peribere, president and CEO, Dow Advanced Materials.

When it comes to winning the contest, participation counts. Blocks with the highest level of resident participation have the best chance of winning. Entrants must submit a brief profile of their neighborhood and the future they envision for it.   Entering will take some coordination.  Any Philadelphia row home resident is eligible to enter, but must submit a group entry through one “block coordinator.” The coordinator may be self-selected or may be one of the city’s “block captains” who volunteer to regularly organize their blocks. 

Entries will be reviewed by a panel of judges that includes representatives from local media, environmental organizations, and the building industry.  The deadline for entry is April 5, 2010. The winning block will be announced by May 10, 2010. In June, the winning block will receive a block party to celebrate. 

For more information about the contest, the prizes, and free information sessions, visit the Coolest Block Contest website,

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