Smart Surfaces

Smart Growth America (SGA) has developed a comprehensive cost-benefit model meant to bring to the attention of municipalities what SGA is calling infrastructural “smart surfaces”, ie. surfaces that reduce urban heat island effect, absorb carbon, and/or reduce water run-off.   Examples include high-albedo roofing and pavements, photovoltaic panels, permeable pavers, green roofs, and urban trees. Transforming urban surfaces has been projected to have benefits of about 3-4 times the cost when three pilot cities were modelled, considering raw cost, direct cost savings, reductions in social inequality, and mitigations to climate change.

OPEN Technologies is converting the current Excel-based model into a new calculation engine suitable for running on servers.  While an Excel tool, used correctly, can help produce an optimal mix of the various smart surface interventions for a given urban area, applying such a model to a new urban area is complicated:

  • providing several dozen accurate inputs such as the quantity of high- and low-slope roof area or regional installation costs requires significant ‘data-detective’ work;
  • shaping and interpreting the result requires an expert’s understanding of how the model is put together.

The web-browser-based user interface that OPEN is building includes a calculation engine that eases both of these challenges:

  • It reduces the data-detective work of filling in the necessary urban-context-specific inputs, either by connecting to available data sources or guiding the user to make educated guesses, and
  • It provides clear, actionable, and easily-shared results and (as far as is feasible) makes the process by which the inputs produced result legible and non-mysterious.

The tool will be used by architects, urban planners, urban sustainability professionals and municipalities to justify investments in smarter infrastructure.

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Partners & Supporters:
Smart Growth America, Integral Group