How Smart Surface Technologies Could Save Cities Billions

Sourced from the Living Architecture Monitor

A new study released in December 2017 shows that city-wide adoption of smart surface technologies could save cities billions of dollars over 40 years. Achieving Urban Resilience, authored by Greg Kats and Keith Glassbrook of Capital E, quantifies the large-scale environmental, economic, and health benefits of smart surface technologies in three US cities: Washington DC, Philadelphia, and El Paso.

The strategies examined include cool roofs, green roofs, solar PV, reflective pavements, and urban trees. Many cities have initiatives and programs in place to promote the adoption of such technologies, but such programs are fragmented and limited and should be more implemented more rigorously. “Delaying this transition would impose large financial and social costs, particularly on places of lower economic opportunity [and on] the elderly and children. We now have the roadmap—now we must follow it,” said Dan Tangherlini, former DC city administrator and former administrator of the US General Service Administration. 

Many of the benefits of smart surfaces have never before been quantified, making this report unique and highly impactful. The current systematic mismanagement of the sun and rain costs cities billions in health, energy, stormwater and other costs, and these costs will continue to rise as climate change raises worldwide temperatures. The costs and benefits of city-wide adoption of smart surfaces has a net present value 1.8 billion dollars for the District, 3.6 billion for Philadelphia and 500 million for El Paso over forty years. When avoided tourism loss is included, these numbers jump to $4.9 and $8.4 billion for the District and Philadelphia, respectively.

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