New Project

Green Infrastructure Can Cool Our Cities

Written by: Katherine Holmok, Director

Most people would think Northeast Ohio doesn’t need to get any cooler, and generally I would agree (after all, Cleveland is my Paris). However, we could use some cooler ambient air temperature in our urban cores. Hotter temperatures in dense urban centers that adjoin rural/suburban areas are called Urban Heat Islands (UHI). In a 2010 University of Georgia study, Northeast Ohio had one of the top Urban Heat Island intensity in the nation.

Green Street

UHI has been linked to increased energy consumption (remember the black out of 2003?), elevated emissions of air pollution and premature death. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that from 1979–2003, excessive heat exposure contributed to more than 8,000 premature deaths in the United States (USEPA). UHI typically effects our most vulnerable populations first – lower income and elderly.

So, how can we cool our cities and not break the bank? Green streets, vest pocket parks, roadside rain gardens and street trees can provide some cost-effective relief. These green infrastructure measures are already being implemented to treat combined sewer impacts and improved water quality in Northeast Ohio. They can also provide the
co-benefit of mitigating UHI effects.

Did you know that large street trees have the potential to reduce surrounding air temperatures by 6-degrees? Green streets that remove stormwater from the combined sewers reduce energy consumption at the waste water treatment plants, thereby reducing air pollutants. Raingarden plants recharge the ground water, which can reduce surrounding ground temperatures.

Green and complete streetAqueduct Street Green and Complete Street Improvements, City of Akron

When I was young, I remember my dad strategically planting large, fast growing shade trees on the south side of the house. This was because he learned that properly placed shading around your house can reduce energy costs. I thought he was just frugal, but now I know, he was improving our quality of life.

Municipal Center Stormwater Demonstration Project, New Franklin

How is your community using green infrastructure resources to help cool your city? If you want to calculate the benefits of your street tree, green roof, or rain garden, check out these online calculators.

For more information about implementing green infrastructure elements into your next community project, please contact Katherine Holmok at


[xyz-ips snippet=”comment-form”]