Mayors in five US cities join drive to cool urban districts

As high temperatures create an urban heat island effect in many places this summer, the mayors of five American cities have signed up to an initiative to cool urban spaces by installing ‘smart surfaces’

As the climate emergency is expressed in dangerously high temperatures in many parts of the world this summer, the mayors of five US cities have joined an initiative to cool urban centres and metropolitan areas with so-called ‘smart surfaces’, including reflective roofs and pavements, green roofs, solar energy, porous pavements, rain gardens and trees.

Atlanta, Boston, Columbia (South Carolina), Dallas and New Orleans have all signed up to the multi-year Cities for Smart Surfaces programme, joining the city of Baltimore, where a pilot initiative has taken place.

Benefits of smart surfaces

Smart surfaces can cool cities by 5°F, deliver large reductions in flooding, and provide US $10 in benefits and cost savings for every US $1 spent, says the National League of Cities’ Smart Surfaces Coalition – a group of organisations committed to the adoption of smart surfaces to help cities mitigate and adapt to climate threats, thus improving urban liveability.

‘This 4 July was the hottest day on Earth in recorded history,’ according to Greg Kats, founder and chief executive of the Smart Surfaces Coalition.

Smart surfaces slow climate change and measurably improve health and wellbeing by reducing peak summer temperatures; decreasing flood and mould risk; improving air quality; delivering environmental justice; saving taxpayer money; and, ultimately, creating thousands of decent jobs.

‘An investment in smart surfaces is a win for Dallas residents,’ explains Dallas Mayor Eric L. Johnson. ‘Leveraging this intelligent and cost-effective technology will cool our neighbourhoods during hot Texas summers, reduce residents’ energy expenses, and minimise the impact of flash flooding events.’

Delivering healthier cities

The agreement with the US mayors will enable the project to deliver more liveable, resilient cities through several means:

  • data – providing satellite data, analysis and mapping to optimise city surface interventions that cost-effectively combat the impacts of climate change;
  • education – engaging with and supporting city staff and community members in learning about how smart surfaces can enable cities to effectively deliver on their equity, climate and public health goals;
  • cost-benefit analysis tool and training – customising SSC’s online cost-benefit analysis tool for and with city partners, enabling comprehensive quantification of the impacts of implementing a range of smart surfaces;
  • funding guidance – creating application templates and providing technical support for cities to secure funding;
  • policy implementation support – advancing policy and legal guidance to support the integration of cost-effective smart surfaces strategies into city policies and projects.

Harold Wimmer, national president and chief executive of the American Lung Association, which is one of the Smart Surfaces Coalition partners, points out that the summer is a time when increased heat in cities, mixed with pollution from vehicle emissions and other sources, can lead to ozone pollution: ‘Having our urban community leaders engage with the Smart Surfaces Coalition will help improve lung health now and into the future.’

Thanks to SALUS Global Knowledge Exchange, content partner of WORKTECH Academy.
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