NSW Minister for Planning and Public Spaces, Rob Stokes says he believes a move to ban dark roofs in a bid to reach net zero emissions in 2050 will come sooner rather than later.

Delivering a speech at the Committee for Sydney, the Minister indicated the policy shift was on the cards, to mitigate the urban heat island effect. The government’s Development Control Plan (DCP) for Wilton in Sydney’s south-west has placed a ban on dark roofs, with Stokes claiming this week that the shift will be enacted statewide. The Wilton DCP also requires new homes to have back gardens that are large enough to comprise a significant tree.

“This (the banning of dark roofs) would have an enormous impact on the urban heat island effect in our city, and I will be asking the Department of Planning to implement this as part of our Net Zero Cities approach,” he says.

“There are no practical reasons why we shouldn’t be ditching dark roofing on new homes permanently to ensure that future communities of Sydney’s west don’t experience the urban heat that many communities do now.”

Research from UNSW that was commissioned by the Morrison Government discovered that Sydney’s ambient temperatures can be lowered by up to 2.4oC if dark roofing is banned, with temperatures inside homes with lighter roofs being 10 degrees lower in some instances.

“Of all the things that can be done about the problem of living with extreme heat in western Sydney, the easiest is requiring light coloured roofs. This makes all the sense in the world,” says Committee for Sydney Chief Executive Gabriel Metcalf.

“Requiring developers to provide a real backyard that has room for a tree is going to make life for the future residents so much better, so we’re very happy to see that too.”

Stokes went on to say that Basix, the tool used in NSW to assess the energy and water efficiency levels of a house, is being upgraded. Stokes indicates that the star rating, which measures the effectiveness of thermal glass, insulation and solar panels, water tanks and plantings, will be increased.

“We’re proposing to raise the current requirement for new residential dwellings from 5.5 stars to 7 stars,” he says.

“Our proposed changes will save another 150,000 tonnes of carbon a year, helping achieve net zero by 2050. This is equivalent to 31 wind turbines running for a year or enough electricity to power 27,000 homes.”

Stokes says there are a number of subtle policy changes to be made that will assist in lowering the state’s emissions. 

“Exercising thrift in resource use, using trees or roof colours to regulate urban heat, designing streets to encourage active transport, and focusing density around public transport are all important strategies that will help us to achieve our goal.”