If, in your travels, you ever have the opportunity to take in the daytime view of downtown Hyattsville from the roof of the municipal building on Gallatin Street, there is one accessory which you simply must bring along: sunglasses.
Preferably rated for trips into the arctic. To venture roof side without sunglasses now is to subject yourself to a near crippling case of snow blindness.
That's because the roof of the Hyattsville municipal building has recently been outfitted with a brilliant white roof surface designed to bounce the sun's heat rays back into the atmosphere and away from the temperature sensitive city employees inside.
It does go beyond a need to maintain an ideal environment for bureaucrats, however. There's the lofty goal of helping save the planet from ecological destruction by reducing the amount of energy spent heating and cooling the building. But there's a more practical side effect of reducing, potentially significantly, the city's energy bill.
According to Jim Chandler, Hyattsville's director of community and economic development, the municipal building quite literally leaks energy.
"The building is highly inefficient in energy use," said Chandler. "There are major inefficiencies from the windows to the roof."
The new roof was funded from an $89,000 United States Department of Energy Grant administered through the Maryland Energy Administration awarded in 2010 to all cities in Maryland based on their population size. The object of the grant was to fund energy efficient upgrades for local governments.
Chandler said the city was faced with three options for the money; use it to upgrade the windows, set the building lights on an automation mechanism, or–the option they ended up settling on–install a more energy efficient roof.
Two elements comprise the upgraded roof. First, theres a layer of foam insulation tiles, a few inches thick, laid across the entire roof. Then that insulation layer is sealed with a kind of blazing white waterproof tarpaper.
With the roof installed, the city will begin in June to compare their energy usage with past heating bills, said Chandler. He said that the roof could result in a 10 to 15 percent reduction in the kilowatt hours billed to the city.
That's no small number, either.
From July 2009 to July 2010, the city paid $99,450 in energy bills at the municipal building. Before that, from 2008 to 2009, the energy bills at the municipal building totaled $141,000. And from 2007 to 2008, the city paid $127,900 to heat and cool the municipal building.
City employees working at the municipal building may notice a change before the accounting department does. The new roof could help to keep the building more evenly temperate. Currently, city workers report different areas of the building are often subject to differing climates.
"During the summer, on hot days, we had to turn off the lights up here," said Chandler from his third floor office. "But down in the police department, it would stay cool."
The city did seriously dabble with the idea of upgrading the windows with the grant money, according to Chandler. The idea hasn't gone by the wayside, either. Chandler said the windows currently installed on the building are rated only for residential usage, and there is a push to obtain funding to install thicker commercial rated windows on the building.
"One of the things we're really going to see, in terms of savings, is when we replace the windows," said Chandler. "As exciting as this is, it's still about dollars and cents."