Addressing Climate Challenges with Cool Pavements: A Case Study of Boston and Phoenix

Thursday, September 23, 2021 at 11:00am to 12:00pm

Virtual Event

By mid-century, two out of every three persons on the planet will be living in urban areas. These growing urban populations face two simultaneous climate challenges: extreme heat events attributed to urban heat island (UHI) effects and global climate change (GCC). In response, cities are seeking actions that address UHI without compromising progress toward global climate goals.


This webinar will discuss CSHub research to understand to what extent and in what contexts cool pavements can actually provide both UHI and GCC benefits. To answer these questions, we have developed a modeling framework that captures the interactions between pavements and the climate, the adjacent buildings, and the vehicles that drive on them.


This model is applied to detailed case analyses of Boston and Phoenix. We show that increasing pavement albedo lowers urban air temperatures and leads to lower net GHG emissions in almost all neighborhoods in both cities. The total GWP savings intensity depends on the characteristics of the neighborhood including both its morphology (i.e., the arrangement of the buildings and streets) and road traffic. Probabilistic results show that cool pavement strategies can offset 1.0−3.0% and 0.7−6.0% of the total GHG emissions of the U.S. cities Boston and Phoenix, respectively, for a 50-year analysis period. The worldwide range of savings can be as large as 5.0−44.7 Gt of CO2 eq. To realize these benefits, a paradigm shift in pavement strategy selection is required in most neighborhoods.


This webinar will be presented by CSHub Co-director Dr. Randolph Kirchain.


The MIT Concrete Sustainability Hub (CSHub) webinar series offers information of general interest to members of the building, paving, and construction communities, as well as to educators, students, journalists, and law and policy-makers interested in the environmental and economic impacts of decision-making concerning infrastructure. Videos of all of our recent webinars are posted to our YouTube channel and a schedule of upcoming webinars is posted to our website.

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Public, MIT Community, Students, Alumni, Faculty, Staff

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School of Engineering (SoE)


Sustainability, urban planning, Infrastructure




Concrete Sustainability Hub


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