Find out how smart building envelope and ground surface technologies in and around your building can benefit your city

by Brianna Crandall — February 21, 2018 — Delivering Urban Resilience, a new report authored by clean-energy and low-carbon consultancy Capital-E, shows how “smart surface” — building envelope and ground surface — technologies such as green roofs and porous pavements that have been shown to benefit individual properties and campuses can be even more effective on a citywide scale. The report quantifies the range of costs and benefits for the adoption of citywide smart surface technologies in Washington, DC; Philadelphia, PA; and El Paso, TX.

Greg Kats, lead author of the report, observed:

Cities are increasingly at risk from hurricanes and severe summer heat. This report shows how citywide adoption of these smart surface technologies would save cities billions of dollars and cut greenhouse gasses while achieving transformative benefits like making cities cooler, more resilient, healthier and more equitable.

The report documents that an investment in these technologies would result in net present values of $1.8 billion in Washington, DC; $3.6 billion in Philadelphia; and $540 million in El Paso over a 40-year period. The work is built on more than two years of data collection and research in collaboration with 15 organizations, including the U.S. Green Building Council, American Institute of Architects and National League of Cities.

According to Mark Chambers, New York City’s director of Sustainability:

Delivering Urban Resilience is so critical because it is the first rigorous analysis of citywide surfacing options to manage sun and water at scale.

Smart surface technologies include surfaces that help manage sunlight and rain, including solar photovoltaic PV roofs, cool roofs, green roofs, porous and high albedo pavements, trees or a combination of these features, explains USGBC. This study demonstrates that these technologies can effectively address the severe cost of worse air quality, higher pollution and excess heat, with particular benefits in in urban low-income areas.

Mahesh Ramanujam, president and CEO, USGBC, remarked:

The Delivering Urban Resilience report gives the green building movement the momentum needed to widen sustainable building perspectives past walls and into environments and the lives of the people who occupy them. Not only do the smart surface technologies in this report provide tangible cost benefits, but they promote the needed equity in quality of life for all city residents.

Will Wynn, former two-term Austin mayor, added:

This is the beginning of the “Smart Surfaces” revolution. Delivering Urban Resilience provides an entirely convincing case that city-wide adoption of smart surfaces like green and cool roofs and porous pavements are both cost-effective and essential to ensuring that our cities remain livable in a warming world.

This report was launched at a recent event with DC Mayor Muriel Bowser at Capitol Crossing, one of the largest developments in the Washington metro area, which is pursuing LEED Platinum certification.

Report partners include: National League of Cities, U.S. Green Building Council, American Institute of Architects, National Housing Trust, Enterprise Community Partners, the Urban Sustainability Directors Network, The Atlantic Council, The JPB Foundation, EcoDistricts, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Global Cool Cities, the Department of General Services, the Department of Energy and Environment, the Office of Sustainability (Philadelphia), Casey Trees, the Energy Coordinating Agency, Rock Creek Conservancy, and DowntownDC BID.

A report summary and the full Delivering Urban Resilience report are available for free download from the USGBC Web site.