Delivering Urban Resilience
This report provides an in-depth analysis of the costs and benefits of applying a set of smart surface solutions1 , including cool roofs, green roofs, solar PV, and permeable and reflective pavements and road surfaces across three cities: El Paso, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. The report demonstrates that cities can strengthen resilience, improve health and comfort, expand jobs and slow global warming through smart surface strategies while securing billions of dollars in net financial benefits. Applied nationally, these strategies could potentially deliver half a trillion dollars in net financial benefits.
How cities manage the sun and rain that fall on them has a huge impact on city resilience and on residents’ health and quality of life. Some cities have established programs supporting adoption of cool roofs, solar PV or reflective pavements, while others promote expansion of green roofs and trees. But even in a city like Washington, D.C. - which is a national leader in urban sustainability, or in Philadelphia - which is a leader in water management, adoption of these measures is fragmented and limited. This reflects very limited data and analysis to date on the costs and benefits of these solutions.
City and town leaders, planners and developers lack the data and tools needed to understand and quantify the costs and benefits of technologies such as cool roofs, green roofs and porous pavements that could allow them to manage their city’s rain and sun far more effectively and cost-effectively. As a result, cities mismanage their two great natural gifts of sunshine and rain. This mismanagement costs billions of dollars in unnecessary health, energy, and stormwater-related costs, degrades city comfort, decreases livability and resilience, and contributes to climate change.
The benefits of city wide adoption of smart surfaces would be greatest in low-income areas, which are characterized by little greenery and dark impervious surfaces that result in excess summer heat and air pollution, excess respiratory illness, heat stress, and high health costs. Building on earlier work by Capital E for The JPB Foundation and for Washington, D.C., this report documents and quantifies large physical disadvantages of low-income neighborhoods relative to cities as a whole.