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Smart Surfaces

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Smart surfaces are a set of surface technologies that allow cities to better manage sun and rain. Smart surfaces not only reduce temperatures and flood risk, they also save money, and make communities more livable. The net benefit of adopting smart surfaces nationwide are:

What Is A Smart Surface?

Cool (Reflective) Roofs & PAVEMENTS

Data source: Lawrence Berkeley National Lab ( here  and  here )

Data source: Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (here and here)

Cool roofs are light colored and engineered to reflect the light and heat out of the atmosphere so as to not heat the city air. Traditional dark colored roofs absorb more of the light that falls on them, radiating heat into the building and the surrounding air—increasing cooling cost and energy consumption while decreasing comfort.

Benefits of cool roofs:

  • Less heat emitted into city air

    • Saves on energy cost

    • Increases outdoor comfort

    • Reduces pollution (slows formation of ground-level ozone)

  • Less heat transferred into building

    • Saves on energy cost

    • Reduces pollution (from reduced demand on non-renewable power plants)

    • Increases indoor comfort

  • Other benefits, costs and additional information on cool roofs can be found on pages 54-63 in Delivering Urban Resilience

Also see information on the benefits and costs of cool pavements on pages 87-100 in Delivering Urban Resilience.

Porous Pavements

Source: Soil Science Society of America ( here )

Source: Soil Science Society of America (here)

Porous pavements allow rain to recharge ground-water, reducing pollution, storm water runoff and flood risk. Pervious pavement technologies include porous asphalt, concrete, permeable pavers, and porous grid pavers with turf. In addition to reducing flood risk and water pollution, porous pavements can also lower temperatures through evaporative cooling.

Benefits of porous pavements:

  • Reduced stormwater runoff

    • Lowers flood risk

    • Lowers water treatment costs

  • Reduced water pollution

    • Porous pavements act as a filter for water

    • Water is cleaned as it passes through soil into groundwater

    • Decreases likelihood of stormwater overflow into sewer then to streams/ocean

  • Other benefits, costs and additional information on porous pavements can be found here and here.

Green Roofs

Source: EPA ( here )

Source: EPA (here)

Green roofs are covered in vegetation, which provides shading, reduces building energy use, cleans the air, and absorbs and better manages water. Green roofs also have longer lifespans than traditional roofs and decrease costs related to energy usage and stormwater runoff.

Benefits of green roofs:

  • Less heat transfer into building

    • Reduces energy consumption and costs

    • Increases comfort

  • Less heat transferred into city air

    • Increases outdoor comfort

  • Reduced pollution and GHGs in the city air

    • Plants directly reduce CO2, NO2, and PM2.5

  • Reduced stormwater runoff

    • Decreases water pollution, flood risk, and water treatment costs

  • Other benefits, costs and additional information on green roofs can be found on pages 64-78 in Delivering Urban Resilience.

Solar PV


Solar PV converts sunshine into electricity and provides shading for buildings, sidewalks, and other public areas. Electricity produced by solar PV can be used to decrease energy demand/load on non-renewable power production facilities. This reduces pollution and lowers energy costs.

Benefits of solar PV:

  • Decreased pollution

    • Reduces energy demand from non-renewable power plants, reducing GHG emissions and improving air quality

  • Reduced energy costs

    • Electricity produced by rooftop solar PV can be used in the building or sold into the grid.

    • The levelized cost of energy for utility-scale solar PV is lower than non-renewable sources (source).

  • Other benefits, costs and additional information on solar PV can be found on pages 79-86 in Delivering Urban Resilience.


Source: Journal of Environmental Quality ( here )

Source: Journal of Environmental Quality (here)

Trees reduce temperature, turn CO2 into oxygen, clean air pollutants, and reduce flood risk.

Benefits of trees:

  • Reduced temperature through shading and transpiration

    • Lowers energy consumption

    • Increases comfort

  • Decreased pollution

    • Directly removes CO2 and ground-level ozone from the air

    • Reduces water pollution caused by runoff during heavy rains

  • Reduced flood risk

    • Trees absorb water during heavy rains

Combinations of Surfaces

By combining smart surface solutions, cities can maximize the benefits from a single area.

Cool roofs + bi-facial solar PV allow more energy to be produced by the solar PV cells while also reflecting sunlight and heat away from the building and surrounding air.

Green roofs + solar PV generate clean energy, reduce building energy use, manage storm water, and clean the air.  

Porous + cool surfaces reflect heat, capture rain, and clean the air.

Other smart surfaces include: cool walls, green walls, bioswales