Surfaces Coalition targets urban heat sources, impervious pavements

Sources: U.S. Green Building Council, Washington, D.C.; CP staff

The U.S. Green Building Council, American Institute of Architects and 20 other sustainability or urban organizations have formed the Smart Surfaces Coalition to help cities adopt cost-effective solutions—porous pavements; cool roofs and pavements; trees and plants—for cutting excess heat radiation from buildings and surfaces; reducing flood risks; plus, improving livability, health and equity.

“The Coalition shows how to use advanced surface technologies to reduce heat and prevent flooding,” says founder Greg Kats. “These solutions deliver enormous health and financial benefits, enhancing quality of life and saving taxpayers billions of dollars in energy costs.”

Excessive summer heat waves are the new norm in the U.S., with scientists finding that most American cities will experience a huge jump, up to five or even 10 times as many excessively hot (90+ degrees Fahrenheit) days within a few decades. By adopting proven building or construction measures and design element, cities can reduce the amount of hot air being reflected back into the surrounding environment, lowering temperatures of cities and communities. Porous vehicular and pedestrian pavements; cool roofs and parking lots that reflect away sunlight; and, trees or green roofs equip cities to better manage sun radiation and rain or storm water runoff. 

USGBC, which manages the LEED green building rating system, incorporates these tactics into credits that building owners can use to earn LEED certification. The Smart Surfaces Coalition is already working with a dozen cities to develop tools and training to support mayors or managers and other key officials around the U.S. to understand and embrace new opportunities to improve quality of life, health and fiscal bottom line. The group’s goal is to partner with more than 250 cities to begin implementing smart surfaces as standard city-wide policy by 2023. The Coalition has kicked off broad promotion of smart surface methods and practices with the release of a white paper, “Stay Cool | Save Cash” posted here.