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North Phoenix outdoor mall partners with ASU to test ‘cool pavement’

Desert Ridge Marketplace, in north Phoenix, is teaming up with an ASU research team to reduce the temperature of the asphalt in the shopping center's parking lot.

PHOENIX — In the brutally hot dry, desert, it’s not uncommon to endure weeks on end of enduring 110-plus temps during the hottest times of the year, which is why many city leaders and communities are continually looking for better ways to keep Arizonans cool.

Desert Ridge Marketplace, in north Phoenix, is teaming up with an ASU research team to reduce the temperature of the asphalt in the shopping center's parking lot.

This weekend, crews worked to cover a 65,000-square-foot area of the parking lot with a cool seal.

They are using a special reflective coating that is part of a cool study.

“The objective is to reduce the surface temperatures of the asphalt as well as the ambient air temperatures as well, in the area that it’s applied,” said Tim Ray, general manager at Desert Ridge Marketplace.

Ray said the cool pavement testing zone is the first of its kind in a commercial retail setting, at this scale, in Arizona. 

“It’s supposed to reduce the surface temperatures by 10 to 12 degrees, versus a traditional black seal coat,” he said.

To make it happen, they partnered with ASU’s Director of Urban Planning David Sailor and his research team.

“The choice of surfaces in our city, whether it’s rooftops or paving, make a huge difference in terms of how much of the energy of that sun we absorb and then how much of that is stored and eventually released,” said Sailor.

They will be measuring the effects to make some comparisons.

The temperature of a hot asphalt surface can be extreme.

“150 to 160 degrees Fahrenheit,” said Sailor. “…whereas the cooler surface, the more reflective surface, might be more on the order of 100 to 120 Fahrenheit.”

There is one potential drawback. 

“There have been some reports that the reflectivity of it sometimes makes it uncomfortable for individuals,” said Ray.

But so far, most of the feedback they’re getting is positive.

“At night, it is actually more reflective,” he said. “You are more visible as an individual walking on the surface than you would be on a black seal coat.”

They expect to learn a lot from this cool pavement testing zone over the next year, before they reflect on the results from the study. 

“We’ve all lived through these extreme summer heats,” said Ray. “So, anything we can do to reduce those air temperatures, I view as a positive living here in Arizona.”

If the results from the study turn out to be successful, you could see other parking lots covered with the same coating in the future, all to create a cooler environment for shoppers and tenants alike. 

“We’re excited to see how it holds up,” said Ray. 

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