Take a stroll around the suburban-like neighborhood of Westwood, in southeast Houston, and you’ll find a surprising sight. Amid the lawns and driveways sentineled by basketball hoops and pickup trucks, near the Walmart and Starbucks, is a house surrounded by greenery so dense the building can barely be seen from the street.
A home doesn’t always describe its owners, but this one, a mostly ordinary bungalow, speaks volumes. Bob Randall and Nancy Edwards, in their 70s, are longtime environmentalists, known in Houston for their prowess in urban gardening and their concern with man-made climate change. Bob, a retired professor of ecological anthropology at the University of Houston, was a cofounder and an executive director of Urban Harvest, a local nonprofit group. His wife, Nancy, was the treasurer for Greener Living in Houston, an educational organization, and now helps to run a small environmental group.
For decades, the couple's property has stood out for its horticulture—mangos, papayas, persimmons, bananas, blueberries. But the feature that sets it apart these days is the reflective, white metal, “cool” roof. The result looks futuristic, as if inspired by the lid of an espresso pot.
Nearly all of their neighbors’ homes still use the traditional dark-colored, asphalt-and-fiberglass shingles, which cost a third to a half as much as the Randall and his wife paid. They went for the innovative option and sprang for a $10,700, thermally engineered roof by South Shore Roofing, a small company based in South Houston.