“Smart Surfaces” report shows savings from pervious and porous pavements

A new, U.S. Green Building Council-backed report documents large-scale environmental, health and economic benefits that Washington, D.C. could realize from such “smart surface” technologies as pervious concrete or permeable concrete paver installations, cool or green roofs, and solar photovoltaic panels. “Achieving Urban Resilience DC” estimates the District, as a standalone municipality, could save $5 billion over 40 years; enhance health and livability; and, temper peak summer heat.

Posted at www.cap-e.com, the “Achieving Urban Resilience” report was funded by the Washington, D.C. Departments of General Services and Energy & Environment in partnership with the USGBC, American Institute of Architects, Global Cool Cities Alliance, National Housing Trust and National League of Cities.

In addition to pervious concrete and permeable paver installations, “Achieving Urban Resilience” illustrates another green infrastructure application associated with precast or cast-in-place concrete: bioretention systems, typically built along streets and sidewalks and configured to capture and retain stormwater volumes.

The report spotlights a May 2016 San Francisco International Airport application of a carbon dioxide-sequestering aggregate concrete as an example of carbon-neutral or –negative pavement holding potential for Washington, D.C., municipal specs.

“This represents a major step in understanding and quantifying the benefits of adopting cost-effective strategies to manage sun and rainfall at a city level,” says report lead author Greg Kats, who heads D.C.-based clean energy consultancy and technology investor Capital E. Cities and planners undermanage rainfall and the effects of sunlight, he adds, in turn costing taxpayers billions of dollars from avoidable health-, energy- and stormwater-related matters—undermining livability and resilience at the same time. Of the 61 square miles of Washington, D.C. surface, 16 percent is roof area, 24 percent pavement; the result is higher summer temperatures and lower air quality than surrounding suburban and rural areas.

“This report convincingly demonstrates cost-effective technologies and strategies for managing sun and water that will deliver billions of dollars in financial benefits to the city and its residents,” notes Dan Tangherlini, former administrator for Washington, D.C., and the U.S. General Services Administration. “Delaying this transition would impose large financial and social costs, particularly on places of lower economic opportunity.”

Implementing smart surface solutions city wide, report authors contend, would cost effectively achieve a range of sustainability, livability and competitiveness objectives, including:

  • Reducing electricity purchases from the grid by 8.5 percent, relative to 2013 consumption levels;
  • Curtailing stormwater runoff to protect local water bodies and lowering potable water consumption;
  • Lowering greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 5.5 percent from 2013 levels while enhancing resilience to climate change through temperature reduction;
  • Improving new and existing buildings’ sustainability performance; and,
  • Expanding tree canopy and other green landscapes to enhance the city-wide ecosystem.

“Capital E helped make the business case for green building with its research in the early 2000s, and this [report] is equally important in showcasing the sustainable built environment’s financial benefits at the city scale,” observes U.S. Green Building Council CEO Mahesh Ramanujam. “‘Achieving Urban Resilience’ provides cities an actionable framework to engage private sector partners on solutions to advance public health, equity and climate resilience.”