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Dallas joins new 'cool' coalition aimed at lowering temps with technology

Temperatures in Texas are routinely above 100 degrees. And that's big trouble if the air conditioning breaks or the electricity goes off. But there are ways to cope.
Amid scorching North Texas heat, the City of Dallas has joined a coalition focused on "cooling" cities with new infrastructure.

The City of Dallas has joined a new partnership in hopes of bringing new “cooling” technology to residents. That’s according to a press release from the Smart Surfaces Coalition and Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson.

This comes after record high heatwaves nationwide — with July 4 being the “hottest day recorded on Earth,” according to the press release announcing the partnership.

Along with Dallas, New Orleans, Atlanta, Boston and Columbia, South Carolina, have joined the partnership and announced a multiyear project to “cool their cities."

“The coalition is a not-for-profit organization made up of 40 partners,” Smart Surfaces Coalition CEO Greg Kats said in an interview with KERA News. “All of these partners share a belief that cities are much hotter than they should be because of the surfaces we put on our cities.”

Other groups participating in the partnership include Habitat for Humanity, the National League of Cities and the American Lung Association.

The group works to help support cities with resources to implement new surface technologies. That includes funding and guidance on where the greatest needs are in Dallas.

Kats says the group will help gather original data to inform policy that could help to protect residents from extreme heat. That work can include anything from mapping city surfaces to collect base-line temperature data, to funding the Graduate School of Public Health at Harvard to help analyze medical data related to heat deaths.

“And then we take all that data with the city, and we customize a very powerful online cost-benefit analytic engine,” Kats said.

With the analytics tools, cities can see what impact adding different “smart surfaces” will have city-wide. Some of the solutions recommended by the group include reflective roofs, porous pavements that replace groundwater “while reducing flood risk,” and bioretention techniques that should reduce stormwater runoff and system overflow, according to the coalition’s website.

“An investment in Smart Surfaces is a win for Dallas Residents,” Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson said in a statement to KERA News. “Leveraging this intelligent and cost-effective technology will cool our neighborhoods during hot Texas summers, reduce residents’ energy expenses, and minimize the impact of flash flooding events.”

But one of the biggest hurdles to implementing this new technology, is a lack of cohesion.

“We, as a nation, have spent billions of dollars in foundation and grant money doing piecemeal solutions,” Kats said. “The problem is when you do it in a fragmented way, you don’t have a coherent solution. You have a little bit of this, a little bit of that.”

Government agencies and municipalities have often resorted to “lowest first cost” solutions, according to Kats. He says governments can actually save money in the long run by factoring in the adverse impacts of traditional infrastructure.

“That’s just a huge obstacle, that city departments don’t have the tools and authority to make investments based on broader impact and benefit,” Kats said. “This is why leadership from someone like Eric Johnson, the Mayor of Dallas, is so important.”

KERA News reached out to Johnson for more details, but he was not available.

Kats says the coalition members believe implementation of different infrastructure will also aid in addressing the long history of racism that has affected where communities of color are located — and the quality of life they are able to have.

“If you think about America’s history on race…lower income and minority neighborhoods really suffer from heat,” Kats said. “They will be 15 degrees hotter than they would be otherwise, because of those surfaces.”

Kats says that translates to kids staying indoors rather than playing outside — and across the city generally people aren’t out on the street during the summer.

“What’s exciting about this is it’s an opportunity to reclaim our neighborhoods in the summer,” Kats said. “And address this long-standing structural injustice where lower income, and in particularly minority, neighborhoods are much less pleasant places to live. And in 2023 that should not be the hallmark of a city.”

Got a tip? Email Nathan Collins at You can follow Nathan on Twitter @nathannotforyou.

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Nathan Collins is the Dallas Accountability Reporter for KERA. Collins joined the station after receiving his master’s degree in Investigative Journalism from Arizona State University. Prior to becoming a journalist, he was a professional musician.