News Analysis

Fighting for Environmental Justice with “Smart” Surfaces

Buildings, streets, and other hard surfaces are at the root of many sustainability issues and associated inequities. The Smart Surfaces Coalition is looking to change that.

Asthma-inducing smog, heat-related deaths, persistent flooding that causes mold, high energy costs. We hear a lot about all these problems. Often missing from the conversation? The people who bear the biggest burdens typically live in low-income neighborhoods and other marginalized communities. Greg Kats, co-founder of the Smart Surfaces Coalition, thinks his group has a solution to these inequities—one that can save cities billions.

Stupid surfaces

The concept of “smart” surfaces doesn’t include any radical new ideas about how to address pollution, heat islands, flooding, or energy. What’s new is convincing cities to combine the solutions (like trees, green and cool roofs, permeable pavement, and photovoltaics) into an integrated strategy to advance resilience, environmental sustainability, and justice. But convincing municipalities requires speaking the language of municipal agencies: money.

Published January 11, 2021

Melton, P. (2020, December 17). Fighting for Environmental Justice with “Smart” Surfaces. Retrieved from