EPA and Arizona State Tackle Urban Heat Islands

AEN News

Washington - Innovative, renewable technology to help mitigate urban heat islands and lower energy consumption is the focus of research at the new National Center of Excellence on SMART Innovations for Urban Climate and Energy. The center, located at Arizona State University (ASU), seeks to develop a new generation of sustainable materials and renewable technology innovations (SMART Innovations), with funding support from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

"Constructing our cities with sustainable materials and renewable technologies helps keep them cool and provide cost-effective health, energy, air and water quality benefits," said EPA's Acting Assistant Administrator Bill Wehrum. "This National Center is a good example of EPA's commitment to innovative, integrated environmental solutions." The new center brings together leading researchers and government and industry representatives to find solutions that have a sound scientific, economic and operational basis to address ways to relieve urban heat islands and lower energy use — a growing concern for many U.S. cities.

The "urban heat island effect" describes a condition of abnormally elevated temperatures that urban areas experience compared to more rural surroundings. During the summer, higher surface and air temperatures caused by human built structures can increase discomfort and risk human health. It also can raise air-conditioning use, risk power outages due to peak electricity demands, worsen air quality by promoting ground-level ozone formation, and impair water quality by heating storm water runoff, causing thermal shock for aquatic life.

"New, sustainable materials for urban development are key components for the cities of the future," said Arizona State University President Michael M. Crow. "Developing these materials is an important part of assuring that our cities are not only thriving places of commerce and intellectual advancement, but that they also lead the way in demonstrating how we can be better stewards of the land and our resources by mitigating the environmental and health effects typically associated with sprawling urban areas. The new National Center for Excellence on SMART Innovations will play a significant role in this endeavor and in ASU's efforts in advancing sustainability research worldwide."