Report: Smart Surfaces Save Cities Billions


According to a new cost-benefit report, the use of smart surfaces—green roofs, solar panels, etc.—in cities may contribute to an improvement in health and comfort for residents, among other positive benefits.

The Delivering Urban Sustainability, Equity and Resilience report, which examined El Paso, Texas; Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., was released by advisory and venture capital firm Capital E. The report noted that each city could achieve significant savings over a 40-year period, were they to implement smart surface technology.

Cost-Benefit Report

The report focused on concerns related to cities becoming urban heat islands. Cities have been known to experience worse temperatures and greater smog, thus contributing to higher energy bills for residents and businesses. Tourism could also be negatively impacted by the increase in heat.

The installation of smart surfaces can help make a heat island cooler by reflecting more light and heat, rather than absorbing both. When used in place of impervious surfaces such as asphalt, smart surfaces, like pervious concrete, allow rainwater to absorb into the ground, rather than contributing to what’s on the surface. Rain gardens and pervious concrete also provide filtration that improves air quality.

The report also focused on the potential use of smart surfaces in low-income areas, as these parts of a city are more drastically impacted by climate change given a lack of greenery, more dark surfaces and less energy-efficient homes. With a higher rate of pollution in these areas, residents’ health is also negatively impacted, which includes respiratory illnesses.

Investment in the use of these technologies in cities can also extend past urban borders to positively impact surrounding areas, and can also inspire other places to make use of the same materials.

After factoring in the installation and operational costs of smart surfaces for these cities, Capital E found that, over a 40-year period, Philadelphia would save $3.6 billion; Washington, D.C., would save $1.8 billion; and El Paso, Texas, would save $538 million.

“Providing a cost-effective way to correct the chronic physical disadvantages that impact our low-income communities must be an urgent priority for our nation’s cities, and this report demonstrates that such an approach is not only feasible, but that it would more than pay for itself,” said Terri Ludwig, President and CEO, Enterprise Community Partners Inc.


Tagged categories: Energy efficiency; Good Technical Practice; North America; Smart coatings; Urban Planning

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