“Smart Surfaces” Could Save Cities Billions
Solar power, cool roofs, and permeable pavement aren’t new ideas—but they’ve also never been deployed at scale. A new study looks at what might happen if they were.
“Cities mismanage their two great natural gifts of sunshine and rain,” states the report, “Delivering Urban Resilience,” which was supported by the Smart Surfaces Coalition, a group that includes the U.S. Green Building Council, the American Institute of Architects, and 20 other organizations. “This mismanagement costs billions of dollars in unnecessary health, energy, and stormwater-related costs, degrades city comfort, decreases livability and resilience, and contributes to climate change.”
The study grew out of earlier research commissioned by Washington, D.C. Using a cost-benefit analysis for three cities—El Paso, Philadelphia, and Washington—the study considers the net value of a variety of “smart surface” solutions, concluding that the cities could save on energy, health, stormwater costs, and more. For example, in Washington, stormwater benefits alone totaled $1.17 billion.
But what exactly is a “smart surface”? The report coins this umbrella term to encompass a variety of technologies for managing sun and rain, including:
- cool roofs, which reduce the urban heat-island effect and reduce building energy use in many climates
- green roofs, which reduce urban heat-island effect and manage stormwater and air pollution
- solar photovoltaics, which reduce energy costs
- permeable pavement, which manages stormwater
- reflective pavement, which reduces the urban heat-island effect
- urban trees, which reduce the urban heat-island effect and manage air pollution
In addition to lowering costs and increasing resilience, scaling many of these strategies would address inequity in cities since low-income neighborhoods are the hardest hit by excessive heat and pollution.
According to the authors, “The findings of this report across three varied cities should encourage adoption of these technologies as city-wide standard practice.”
More on smart surfaces
For more information:
Smart Surfaces Coalition
Published October 8, 2018