Report: Smart Surfaces Could Enhance Livability, Save Billions in D.C.

Dec. 14, 2016
Smart-surface technologies include cool roofs, green roofs, solar photovoltaics, and porous pavements.

A new report documents and quantifies large-scale environmental, health, and economic benefits Washington, D.C., could realize from citywide adoption of smart-surface technologies, such as cool roofs, green roofs, solar photovoltaics, and porous pavements.

Authored by Capital E, “Achieving Urban Resilience: Washington, DC” documents how the district could save $5 billion while enhancing health and livability and cutting summer peak temperature with smart-surface technologies.

According to the report, rainfall and the effects of sunlight are undermanaged by cities and city planners, costing cities billions of dollars from avoidable health-, energy-, and stormwater-related costs while undermining livability and resilience and contributing to climate change.

Like most cities, Washington, D.C., the 61 square miles of surface of which is 16 percent roofs and more than 24 percent paved area, suffers from higher summer temperatures and lower air quality than surrounding suburban and rural areas, the report says.

Washington, D.C. (SeanPavonePhoto/iStock)

“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,” Dan Tangherlini, former Washington, D.C., city administrator and former administrator of the U.S. General Services Administration, said.

According to the report, implementing smart-surface solutions citywide would cost-effectively:

  • Reduce electricity purchases from the grid by 8.5 percent, relative to 2013 consumption levels.
  • Reduce stormwater runoff to protect local water bodies while reducing potable-water use.
  • Reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by approximately 5.5 percent of 2013 emissions while enhancing resilience to climate change by reducing city temperatures.
  • Improve sustainability performance of new and existing buildings.
  • Expand tree canopies and other green landscapes to enhance the citywide ecosystem.
  • Create more than 2,400 well-paying green jobs in the district over 40 years.
  • Improve livability, particularly in low-income areas that tend to have less green cover and fewer efficient buildings.
  • Improve air quality and the health of district residents and visitors.

Partners in this work include The American Institute of Architects, the National League of Cities, the DowntownDC Business Improvement District, the U.S. Green Building Council, the National Housing Trust, and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

To download the report, click here.