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Smart surface technologies such as green roofs produce savings in the form of lower energy and water bills, lower health costs, reduced water treatment, and infrastructure costs.


Smart Surfaces Coalition launched to help cities reduce urban heat, better fight and adapt to climate change.

In August, 22 sustainability and urban organizations, including the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), formed the Smart Surfaces Coalition (www.staycoolsavecash.com) to help cities rapidly adopt cost-effective solutions to cut excess heat radiation from buildings and surfaces; reduce flood risk; and improve livability, health, and equity while saving billions of dollars and creating hundreds of thousands of new jobs.

“The Smart Surfaces Coalition shows cities how to use advanced surface technologies to reduce heat and prevent flooding,” said Greg Kats, Smart Surfaces Coalition founder. “These solutions deliver enormous health and financial benefits, slowing global warming, enhancing quality of life, and saving taxpayers billions of dollars in energy costs.”

Excessive summer heat waves are the new norm in the U.S., with scientists finding that most American cities will experience a huge jump, up to five or even 10 times as many excessively hot (90°+F) days, within just a few decades. The five hottest years on record globally have all occurred since 2010. In the U.S., May 2018 was the hottest on record, and June 2018 was the third hottest in the 124-year temperature record. Rapidly rising temperatures are already costing consumers and companies billions in higher energy and health care costs and making American communities less livable and healthy.

Smart surface technologies allow cities to better manage sun radiation and runoff through:

  • cool roofs and pavements that reflect (instead of absorbing) sunlight, cutting temperatures and smog;
  • green roofs and trees that provide shade and reduce flood risk;
  • solar PV that converts sunshine into electricity and provides shade; and
  • porous pavements, sidewalks, and roads that reduce water runoff, flooding, and cut the cost of managing stormwater.

The Smart Surfaces Coalition is already working with a dozen cities to develop tools and training to support mayors, city managers, and other key officials around the U.S. to understand and adopt these new opportunities to improve quality of life, health and fiscal bottom line. The coalition’s goal is to partner with more than 250 cities to adopt and begin implementing smart surfaces as standard city-wide policy by 2023.

The coalition released a new eight-page whitepaper, Stay Cool/Save Cash (https://www.staycoolsavecash.com/analysis/stay-cool-save-cash-whitepaper). Its recommendations and findings are based on a 300-page report, Delivering Urban Resilience (https://www.staycoolsavecash.com/analysis/delivering-urban-resilience-full-report), which is built on four years of data collection and research on greening the cities of El Paso, Texas; Philadelphia; and Washington, D.C.

Fifteen organizations, including USGBC, the American Institute of Architects, the National League of Cities, the National Housing Trust, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, and The JPB Foundation collaborated on the report, which found that smart surface adoption would save El Paso $540 million, Philadelphia $3.6 billion, and Washington, D.C., $1.8 billion, not including large additional financial benefits from avoiding lost tourism revenue.

Smart surface technologies produce savings in the form of lower energy and water bills, lower health costs, reduced water treatment, and infrastructure costs. New jobs would result from manufacture, installation, and maintenance of smart surfaces, many of which are labor-intensive.

Low-income urban areas are generally more vulnerable to extreme heat, as they have fewer green spaces and more impervious surfaces, resulting in hotter temperatures and poor environmental air quality. This leads to higher energy bills and greater health risks. Smart surfaces help solve all these structural inequalities.

“Cities are increasingly at risk from severe summer heat,” said Kats. “This coalition will support adoption of smart surface technologies to save billions of dollars and cut greenhouse gasses while making cities cooler, more resilient, healthier, and equitable.”


Information provided by the U.S. Green Building Council (www.usgbc.org).   

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