U.S. Cities Can Save Billions With Green, Resilient Design, Says Report

Sourced from Curbed

Sustainability has become a buzzword for urban designers and environmental advocates. A new report released yesterday stresses that making it a de facto policy for U.S. cities would be a cost-effective design solution that could save millions, and even billions, of dollars.

Co-authored by Greg Kats and Keith Glassbrook, Delivering Urban Resilience looked at the ecological and financial advantages that would come from promoting co-called “smart surfaces,” such as as green roofs, solar panels, and permeable and porous pavement, in urban areas.

Using three different cities as case studies—El Paso, Texas, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C.—the researchers examined how adding these features can lower excess heat and improve water quality and stormwater management, all costly environmental issues exacerbated by climate change. For the first time, researchers assembled an integrated cost-benefit analysis for these strategies using insight from city partners, epidemiologists, and tech and energy experts.

The results were promising, and suggest these adaptations should be seen less as a good idea and more as a necessary, and prudent, investment. The analysis showed that each of the cities studied would realize significant savings if they embraced these changes: El Paso would save $540 million, Washington, D.C., would save $1.8 billion, and Philadelphia would save $3.5 billion. These figures already factor in the cost of making significant adjustments and investments to add new, green infrastructure (the report puts the cost of a smart surface program in D.C. at $838 million, for example).

Adopting the entire suite of smart, resilient solutions would save cities significant money on energy, water, and infrastructure repairs, due to increased resilience. Cooling technologies and adaptions would cut regional energy bills and reduce smog, and the benefits to health and livability would compound over time.

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