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Report finds smart surface technologies could save U.S. city billions

Monday, December 19, 2016

A new report, Achieving Urban Resilience: Washington D.C., documents how D.C. could save $5 billion with smart surface strategies, such as cool roofs, green roofs, solar PV and porous pavements, while enhancing health and livability and cutting summer peak temperature.

Partners in this Capital E report include the American Institute of Architects, the National League of Cities, Downtown D.C. BID, USGBC, the National Housing Trust and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

“This report represents a major step in understanding and quantifying the benefits of adopting cost-effective strategies to manage sun and rainfall at a city level,” said Greg Kats, lead author of the report. “Increasing summer heat and smog threaten city livability and summer tourists. This report provides a powerful framework to combat climate change while improving public health and saving money.”

Cities and city planners undermanage rainfall and the effects of sunlight, which costs cities billions in avoidable health-, energy- and stormwater-related costs, undermines livability and resilience, and contributes to climate change. The 61 square miles of surface in Washington, D.C. include 16 per cent roofs and more than 24 per cent paved area. As a result, D.C., like most cities, suffers from higher summer temperatures and lower air quality than surrounding suburban and rural areas.

“What this report convincingly demonstrates is that there are 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,” said Dan Tangherlini, former Washington, D.C., city administrator and former administrator of the U.S. General Service Administration. “Delaying this transition would impose large financial and social costs, particularly on places of lower economic opportunity [and on] the elderly and children. We now have the roadmap—now we must follow it.”

According to the USGBC,  report found that implementing these smart surface solutions city-wide would cost-effectively achieve a range of sustainability, livability and competitiveness objectives, including:
• Energy: Reduce electricity purchases from the grid by 8.5 per cent, relative to 2013 consumption levels.
• Water: Reduce stormwater runoff to protect local water bodies while reducing potable water use.
• Climate and Environment: By full implementation, reduce greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 5.5 percent of 2013 emissions, while enhancing resilience to climate change through reduced city temperatures
• Built Environment: Improve sustainability performance of new and existing buildings.
• Nature: Expand tree canopy and other green landscape to enhance the city-wide ecosystem.
• Jobs and Economy: Create more than 2,400 well-paying green jobs in the D.C. over 40 years.

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