EPA Reducing Urban Heat Islands: Compendium of Strategies

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency compendium describes the causes and impacts of urban heat islands, and details green infrastructure strategies and other activities for reducing heat islands. Six reports present the multiple benefits that a community can achieve from implementing heat island reduction strategies. Voluntary and policy efforts undertaken by state and local governments to mitigate urban heat islands are also described.

The compendium includes 6 separate documents by topic:

  • Urban Heat Island Basics
  • Trees and Vegetation
  • Green Roofs
  • Cool Roofs
  • Cool Pavements
  • Heat Island Reduction Activities

Each chapter of the compendium provides detail on how each of these strategies work, their costs and benefits, and factors to consider when selecting them.

Trees and Vegetation: Offers advice on integrating trees and vegetation into the urban environment; planting considerations near buildings and paved surfaces; and examples of urban forestry initiatives. Benefits described are primarily focused on reduction of greenhouse gases.   

Green Roofs: Describes how exactly they work, and the various types of green roofs (extensive vs. intensive). Benefits include reduction of greenhouse gases and air pollution; reduction of heat transfer through the roof of a building - which can in turn reduce heat stress associated with heat waves and improve indoor comfort; and the reduction of stormwater runoff in the urban environment. Examples of green roof initiatives nationwide are linked also for more information. 

Cool Roofs: Details how they work, types of cool roofs, and the materials used to build them. Benefits include reduced energy use, reduced greenhouse gases through urban heat island mitigation, and improved comfort and human health. A comparison chart of traditional vs. cool roof options demonstrates cost savings.

Cool Pavements: Describes how these pavement technologies tend to store less heat and may have lower surface temperatures as compared with conventional products. Current and potential cool pavement types are detailed - current cool pavements are those that have increased solar reflectance or that use a permeable material including vegetated surfaces.  An extensive table to value various pavement types is included: "Properties that Influence Pavement Temperatures - Impacts and Applications."  

Heat Island Reduction Activities: This chapter covers a variety of urban heat island reduction activities around the country - both voluntary and policy derived. Examples for the following types of activities are included:

  • Demonstration projects
  • Incentive programs
  • Urban forestry programs
  • Weatherization
  • Outreach and education
  • Awards
  • Procurement
  • Resolutions
  • Tree and landscape ordinances
  • Comprehensive plans and design guidelines
  • Zoning codes
  • Green building standards
  • Building codes
  • Air quality standards


If you have any trouble accessing the website link above, please find here an archived page. You may find this has limited use. https://web.archive.org/web/20170126132514/https://www.epa.gov/heat-islands/heat-island-compendium 

Publication Date: 2008, 2014

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  • Best practice


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