Smart Surfaces

The Smart Surfaces Coalition (SSC) has developed a comprehensive cost-benefit model meant to bring to the attention of municipalities what SSC 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 has been converting the current Excel-based model into a new calculation engine suitable for running directly in web browsers. 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 helping build 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 urban sustainability professionals, municipalities and urban planners to catalyze investments in smarter infrastructure.

The tool and its underlying research is being stewarded as part of a larger information commonwealth by the Coalition, to ensure that what’s learned can be harnessed to the benefit of all cities and communities.

Interested in learning more? Send a note to

Partners & Supporters:
The Smart Surfaces Coalition.