Surface Reflectance Degradation by Microbial Communities


Meng-Dawn Cheng, Steve L. Allman, David E. Graham, Karen R. Cheng, Susan M. Pfiffner, Tatiana A. Vishnivetskaya


Building envelope, such as a roof, is the interface between a building structure and the environment. Understanding of the physics of microbial interactions with the building envelope is limited. In addition to the natural weathering, microorganisms and airborne particulate matter that attach to a cool roof tend to reduce the roof reflectance over time, compromising the energy efficiency advantages of the reflective coating designs. We applied microbial ecology analysis to identify the natural communities present on the exposed coatings and investigated the reduction kinetics of the surface reflectance upon the introduction of a defined mixture of both photoautotrophic and heterotrophic microorganisms representing the natural communities. The findings are (1) reflectance degradation by microbial communities follows a first-order kinetic relationship and (2) more than 50% of degradation from the initial reflectance value can be caused by microbial species alone in much less time than 3 years required by the current standard ENERGY STAR® test methods.

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Cheng MD, Allman SL, Graham DE, Cheng KR, Pfiffner SM, Vishnivetskaya TA, Desjarlais AO. 2016. Surface reflectance degradation by microbial communities. Journal of Building Physics 40:263-277.