Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Effects of composition and exposure on the solar reflectance of
Portland cement concrete
- Author(s): Levinson, Ronnen
- Akbari, Hashem
- et al.
Increasing the solar reflectance (albedo) of a paved surface keeps it cooler in the sun, reducing convection of heat from pavement to air and thereby decreasing the ambient air temperature. Simulations of the influence of pavement albedo on air temperature in Los Angeles predict that increasing the albedo of 1,250 km2 of pavement by 0.25 would save cooling energy worth $15M yr-1, and reduce smog-related medical and lost-work expenses by $76M yr-1. Most sidewalks and a small fraction of roads and parking areas are paved with portland cement concrete, which can be made quite reflective through suitable choice of cement and aggregate. Variations with composition and environmental exposure of the albedos of portland cement concrete pavements were investigated through laboratory fabrication and exposure of 32 mixes of concrete. Twenty-four mixes yielded substandard, "rough" concretes due to high, unmet aggregate water demand. The albedos of the remaining eight "smooth" concrete mixes ranged from 0.41 to 0.77 (mean 0.59). Simulated weathering, soiling, and abrasion each reduced average concrete albedo (mean decreases 0.06, 0.05, and 0.19, respectively), though some samples became slightly more reflective through weathering or soiling. Simulated rain (wetting) strongly depressed the albedos of concretes (mean decrease 0.23) until their surfaces were dried. Concrete albedo grew as the cement hydration reaction progressed (mean increase 0.08), but stabilized within six weeks of casting. White-cement concretes were on average significantly more reflective than gray-cement concretes. The albedo of the most-reflective white-cement concrete was 0.18 to 0.39 higher than that of the most-reflective gray-cement concrete, depending on state of exposure. Concrete albedo generally correlated with cement albedo and sand albedo, and, after abrasion, with rock albedo. Cement albedo had a disproportionately strong influence on the reflectance of concrete. Efflorescence and surface carbonation whitened some gray-cement mixes.