Clean energy firm Capital E recently released a report on the value of smart surfaces in combatting the effects of urban heat islands. Smart surfaces include solar panels and green roofs, as well as permeable and reflective pavement, and they are designed to make urban spaces cooler and more resilient. Capital E examined smart surface solutions in El Paso, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC, and determined that smart surfaces are a cost-saving means of improving health, growing jobs, slowing climate change, and making people more comfortable.

In terms of costs, Capital E found that, in a 40-year period, Philadelphia could see $3.6 billion in savings. Washington could see nearly $2 billion and El Paso close to $550 million. While saving city funds, the surfaces help to manage stormwater and trapped heat by allowing for more runoff during heavy rainfall and reducing the smog that can cause chronic health problems. Permeable surfaces allow the ground to absorb water, leading to better water quality and less debris carried by flooding. 

The report highlights the disproportionate effect of climate change on impoverished areas, which smart surfaces could help alleviate. Further, they found that reducing smog, flooding, and heat-trapping in urban centers had effects for the entire region, which could mean smart surfaces are even more effective than the Capital E report demonstrates. It remains to be seen if the test cities will adopt the new technology, but the forecast is impressive.