Cool Roofs, Green Roofs, Urban Trees: Smart Surfaces Coalition Partners Locally with BNIA to Help City Neighborhoods
October 23, 2019
Contact: Office of Government and Public Affairs
The national Smart Surfaces Coalition (SCC) announced a new partnership with the Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance (BNI), part of the University of Baltimore's Jacob France Institute, to provide Baltimore policymakers, neighborhoods and advocates with a powerful new tool to promote livability and resilience. Through the tool and focused community engagement, SCC and BNIA aim to encourage the use of practices such as green roofs and trees, and reflective pavement and roofs, collectively known as "smart surfaces," in support of improved local air quality and reduced heat impacts.
The partnership will create a customized, cost-benefit analysis—a "smart surfaces" tool—for Baltimore available for anyone to model and understand benefits of smart surface adoption for the City of Baltimore. Already, temperatures in Baltimore are high because of the urban "heat island" effect. Cities have a high concentration of dark, heat absorbing surfaces—like buildings and pavements—and less green space. A study of Baltimore recently reported on by NPR mapped the relationship between heat and neighborhood income and found that the temperature of low-income neighborhoods can be as much as 10 degrees hotter than wealthier areas—on top of city-wide excess summer heat.
The work by SCC and BNIA, funded by the Abell Foundation, aims to reduce existing structural inequalities prevalent in low-income neighborhoods—such as heat absorbing pavement and diminishing green space, which contribute to increased smog, higher temperatures, and negative long-term health. SSC and BNIA are collaborating to address these concerns by providing community organizations with tools to quantify and analyze impacts and scenarios to better shape their future and a robust economic argument for adopting smart roofing and surfacing technology.
The partners will work with low-income hot Baltimore neighborhoods that would reap the largest benefits from rapid deployment of smart surfaces. These areas are characterized by high poverty rates, lower incomes, and higher unemployment than the rest of the city. Not coincidently, low-income areas also have 43 percent lower tree coverage relative to the rest of the city as a whole.
"Adoption of smart surfaces neighborhood or city wide improves air quality, livability and comfort while providing jobs and reduce temperature even as the globe warms. When the benefits are calculated these measures are very cost effective," SSC CEO Greg Kats. "There is no reason why low-income neighborhoods shouldn't be as green, cool and healthy as rich neighborhoods."
The SSC and BNIA staff will work closely with local organizations like Tree Baltimore, Blue Water Baltimore, Baltimore Tree Trust, and the Baltimore Office of Sustainability. Tree Baltimore coordinates the city's tree planting initiatives across nonprofits, neighborhoods, and community organizations. Blue Water Baltimore's mission is to restore the quality of the city's waterways by implementing green infrastructure and tree planting to reduce stormwater runoff. The Baltimore Office of Sustainability develops the city's sustainability agenda with an emphasis on energy efficiency, renewable energy, clean air and water, and social equity. The city has recently launched the Green Network Plan, to create an interconnected network of greenspaces in city.
The cost-benefit tool plans to build off the leadership of these neighborhood groups and arm them with an economic argument that further enables them to implement increased tree canopy, green infrastructure, and healthier, more livable communities.
Beginning in the spring, BNIA will host workshops in the selected areas to train community-based residents and organizations on how to leverage the cost-benefit tool in influencing individual and institutional decisions and investment.
"Everyone living and working in our neighborhoods makes daily decisions about maintaining their properties and other infrastructure," says Seema Iyer, director of BNIA. "We hope that the smart surfaces tool can help provide the cost-benefit to highly impacted areas in order to address the urban heat island effect and improve air quality."
Currently, the project is seeking interest from Baltimore's low-income neighborhoods. Neighborhood associations in areas hurt by excess heat and poor air quality that have an interest in learning about and using the new tool being developed are encouraged to contact BNIA to learn more about participating.
What are Smart Surfaces?
Smart surfaces are a set of surface technologies that allow cities to better manage sun and rain. These surfaces include:
- Cool surfaces (roofs, pavements, and parking lots) have higher solar reflectance, reflecting more sunlight and absorbing less solar radiation than conventional, dark roofs. This means that cool roofs do not get as hot, reducing heat transfer both to the building below and to the urban environment, reducing ambient temperature and energy usage.
- Green roofs are a vegetative layer on a roof. Because of evapotranspiration and shading, green roofs are cooler than conventional roofs, reducing heat transfer to the urban air. There are three mechanisms by which green roofs reduce direct energy consumption: (1) increasing roof surface evapotranspiration rates; (2) shading the roof surface; and (3) increasing the thermal mass and thermal resistance of the roof, so the floor below is cooler.
- Urban trees sequester CO2, remove harmful pollutants from the air, and reduce stormwater runoff. Indirectly, trees provide ambient cooling through evapotranspiration and shading, which reduces cooling energy usage city-wide.
- Permeable pavements reduce stormwater runoff and commonly allow for water storage.
- Integrated surfaces such as bifacial solar deliver heat, energy, and pollution reduction benefits compared to the individual smart surface components, leading to greater improvements in urban health.
For Baltimore neighborhoods interested in learning more or participating please contact the Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance at email@example.com.
For questions about the Smart Surfaces Coalition, go here. For more information on the smart surface cost benefit analytic engine, go here. For further questions on either, contact Rob Jarrell at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Smart Surfaces Coalition
Launched in February 2019, the Coalition is a partnership of 35 organizations including the American Public Health Association, National League of Cities, U.S. Green Building Council, and American Institute of Architects that has developed an online cost-benefit tool to promote the rapid adoption of smart surfaces. Their research show that the city-wide adoption of smart surfaces in the cities of Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, and El Paso can strengthen city resilience, improve health and livability, reduce urban inequality, and slow global warming while saving billions of dollars. Read report here.
BNIA-JFI began in 1998 as a partnership between the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers. In 2006, BNIA joined with the University of Baltimore’s Jacob France Institute in an expansion of its capabilities. BNIA-JFI has strengthened the Vital Signs report and provided additional services and resources for those who seek data, information, and analysis about the city. The complete Vital Signs reports, along with a separate executive summary, data, maps and other research by BNIA-JFI, are available here.
BNIA-JFI also hosts an annual workshop, Baltimore Data Day, in which community leaders, nonprofit organizations, governmental entities and civic-minded "hackers" come together to analyze the latest trends in community-based data, technology and tools, and learn how other groups are using data to support and advance constructive change.
Learn more about the Merrick School of Business.
The University of Baltimore is a member of the University System of Maryland and comprises the College of Public Affairs, the Merrick School of Business, the UB School of Law and the Yale Gordon College of Arts and Sciences.