By Dr. Jane L. Snowdon

IBMers around the world gave back to their communities on Wednesday, June 15, as part of the company’s global Day of Service in which more than 300,000 employees, retirees and business partners donated more than 2.5 million hours of service helping millions in need.

Building on our strong heritage of skills based service, IBMers in 120 countries applied their expertise to help local communities with civic challenges and societal needs. In New York, Vermont and California, IBM volunteers partnered with local organizations to build a smarter sustainable planet, making a real impact to communities where people live and work.

Collaborating With NYC °CoolRoofs

In New York City, IBMers teamed up with NYC Service and NYC Department of Buildings on the NYC °CoolRoofs project, an initiative to promote and facilitate the cooling of New York City’s rooftops. A white, reflective coating is applied to building rooftops to help reduce cooling costs, cut energy usage and lower greenhouse gas emissions. These goals are in alignment with PlaNYC, Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s sustainability plan which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2030.

New York City has more than 1.6 billion square feet of rooftops and suffers from the “urban heat island effect,” a phenomenon of the city being 5 - 7 degrees higher than surrounding suburban and rural areas in the summer due to the abundance of dark, dry, impermeable surfaces, such as roads and buildings. The white, reflective coating significantly cools and protects the roof with the benefits of reducing the need for air conditioning by 10 to 30 percent on hot summer days, decreasing internal building temperatures by up to 30 percent, lowering electric bills, reducing energy consumption, extending the life of the roof and prolonging the life of cooling equipment. The NYC °CoolRoofs project reduces carbon emissions in NYC at the rate of 0.5 pounds per square foot of rooftop coated.

IBM volunteers painted the rooftops of two 8-story walkups on West 159th Street in the Washington Heights neighborhood of New York City. The team painted a total of 9,440 square feet and helped to make a dent in NYC’s carbon footprint by mitigating 4,520 pounds of CO2.

Saving in Vermont

In Burlington, Vt., IBM announced the start of a project to help the Vermont Technical College and HowardCenter, the largest health and human services organization in the state, to reduce its energy use by 5 percent annually. More than 100 IBM Vermont volunteers collaborated with VTC and HowardCenter to implement an energy management program that the IBM Vermont manufacturing facility has used to cut its electricity and fuel consumption by 21 percent.

Greenhouse Gas Savings In California

In addition, California-based IBMers partnered with GRID Alternatives whose mission is to empower communities in need with renewable energy and energy efficiency services. As part of IBM’s Centennial Day of Service activities, IBM and GRID Alternatives installed solar panels in homes for low-income families in San Diego, Calif., and throughout the West Coast. In one day, six solar electric systems were installed, which will help these families save $150,000 over the system’s lifespan. Even more, 600 tons of greenhouse gas emissions will be prevented.

Throughout IBM’s next 100 years, the company will continue its commitment to the community, helping to connect IBMers with needs inside and outside of the company.

Dr. Jane L. Snowdon is Senior Manager, Industry Solutions and Emerging Business, Energy & Environment: Smarter Building Research at the IBM T. J. Watson Research Center. She participated in the NYC °CoolRoofs project during this year’s Centennial Day of Service celebrations.