Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Ask Cristina: Roofing Colors

Dear Cristina,

Please give me some advice. I am building a one-level secondary school in an Amerindian village in the interior of Guyana. I've finally received the money to put the roof on this 70'x 40' concrete building and I need color ideas. I am planning to purchase royal blue metal roofing material. What color should I paint the school to coordinate with the roof. I am also planning to build two small dormitories, two staff houses and a kitchen/cafeteria. Do these buildings need the same color roof? I would really appreciate it if you could give me some suggestions.

Siparuta Mission Academy

I checked your website Siparuta Mission Academy and noticed that the school is in a tropical jungle near a river. According to your website: "Siparuta Mission Academy was opened September 10, 2007 with 43 students in the Amerindian village of Siparuta, Guyana, South America. The school was an answer to the prayers of Amerindians who longed for a secondary school for their children." I checked Wikipedia about the country of Guyana, and got an idea of the weather.

I can understand why you are attracted to the royal blue color for the metal roofing. The landscape of the area is so unrelentingly green that a strong cool blue is a welcome accent. It also is the color of the school uniforms. As much as I love the cobalt color, I'm concerned that in a tropical setting the darker blue of the metal roofing will create too much heat in the rooms it shelters because the darker color absorbs more UV energy.

A local metal roofing company salesperson I called said that yes, darker colors on roofs do absorb more heat and that if you are in a climate where cooling is more of a challenge than heating, a lighter colored metal roof would be better.

So....here's my advice: If heat is a problem, choose a light color like light blue or yellow or even an orange (if the village people would enjoy it). Stay away from green -- there is more than enough of that color already. If heat isn't a problem (or is a small problem), go with the cobalt metal roof color, it's gorgeous.

I looked at the aerial view (or hillside view) of the village on your website and I think that making the metal roofs the same color would unify the compound. If that is not enough variety for your community members, at the least, make the buildings of a similar type have the same color roof. (i.e. "public" bldgs. vs. dormitories, etc.) I helped my local Habitat for Humanity with a hamlet of 10 homes and recommended that with the variety of home exterior wall colors, all of the roofs be the same color. It was very visually successful.

For a general color palette I would include the cobalt on doors or any other trim area if you don't use it on the metal roof. Looking at the photos of your village area I don't see much paint (yet), mostly natural wood and concrete colors. You are surrounded with so much green in the landscape that cobalt, deep yellow, deep purple, red, bright pink, and orange are good accent colors. Take your cues from the population you are working with as I'm sure they have preferences.

The wall colors can be more fun. Sometimes in tropical climates people prefer white or very soft yellow/white walls so that insects are visible. White of course can get dirty easily. A compromise is to use mid-value or darker colors on the bottom part of the buildings -- like a band of color that rises about 3 to 5 feet from the ground, then white or other light color above that. On the outside, a mid-value to darker color part way up the wall will look better when rain splatters mud on the sides of the building.

I urge you to have fun with the color scheme and include members of the village in the process. A vibrant, happy and welcoming looking compound is the first step to welcoming visitors, encouraging newcomers and giving your local population a sense of ownership and community.

Another idea is to incorporate Shade Sails into your compound. Shade Sails come in many colors and even the dark colors (the navy blue is close to the color you like) hold up well in the tropical sun. They are easy (with a crew) to install and you can get immediate shelter that is modern, colorful, stylish and very affordable. Read my blog posting about Shade Sails.

Send photos, I'd love to post the results and hear about the project.

Best Wishes, Cristina
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  1. Great advice as usual Cristina! I always learn something when I visit your site and it is fun to see the great variety of locations, topics and interests that you have! Keep up the awesome work.

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