Here’s How Much Money Green Design Could Save Cities

Sourced from Next City

It’s no secret that green design features like living roofs, reflective pavements and urban tree cover are good for public health. But they’re also good for cities’ bottom lines — especially as climate change exacerbates the urban heat island effect and messes with long-established rainfall patterns, according to a new report.

The report, Delivering Urban Resilience, comes from clean energy advisory and venture capital firm Capital E, with funding from the JPB Foundation (and a host of national partners). By crunching numbers in three cities, Washington D.C., Philadelphia and El Paso, authors Greg Kats and Keith Glassbrook conclude that investing in what they term “smart surface technologies” could deliver roughly half a trillion dollars in net financial benefits nationally.

Take Washington, D.C. The city is going to get a lot hotter and wetter over the next decade, even by conservative emissions standards. Expanding the city’s urban tree cover would result in “ambient cooling” citywide, i.e., residents using less energy for air conditioning (Next City previously covered the “green infrastructure” strategy here). That simple move could “lead to annual indirect energy savings [of] between $1 and $3 per 1000 [square feet] of roof,” according to the report. And those leafy canopies do more than cool the air — they also sequester carbon, magnifying their financial benefit.

In Philadelphia, meanwhile, tourism generated about $10.4 billion in 2014. But the city already experiences an average of 10 days in July and 6 days in August that are above 90 degrees, and that number could quadruple under the warming scenario presented by the report. Those hot days (exacerbated by the urban heat island effect) could take a significant toll on the city’s economy.

“If we assume that 10 [percent] of Philadelphia summer tourism revenue is at risk, a city-wide smart surface strategy might enable Philadelphia to avoid half of these tourism losses,” the report states.

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