Why smart cities begin at the molecular level

A city cannot be smart unless it is sustainable. How can you reach that goal? Think small. Think really small. Molecular level small.

It’s easy to overlook the important of building materials when you’re focusing on sensors, connectivity and analytics, but those materials play a critical role in delivering on energy efficient goals and keeping people safe. — Jesse Berst


By Greg Bergtold, Dow Building Solutions and Jesse Berst, Smart Cities Council

At the intersection of technology and a good design, smart cities are built right from the start with a stable, sustainable infrastructure at the core.

Dow believes that better cities start with the very first molecule with a design that is healthy for occupants and has a lower environmental impact. We use polymer, chemical and biological science to develop building materials that address the most pressing challenges facing cities.

Dow was recently named a 2017 Safer Choice Partner of the Year by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). A closer look at the science behind this achievement should provide urban planners and builders with insights about the latest materials available to cities. These next-generation solutions exemplify the kind of thinking needed to balance energy efficiency, safety and resilience.

  • ECOSURF™ EH-9 Surfactant. With low-odor and favorable formulating properties, this readily biodegradable surfactant is ideal for paint and coating systems that may be applied on buildings, roads, and roofs. Dow and Safer Choice scientists partnered together and successfully addressed a potential toxicology concern. The scientific evaluation resulted in a “low hazardous” classification per Safer Chemical Ingredient Listing criteria, and further supports ECOSURF EH-9 as a suitable alternative to challenged chemistries.
  • BLUEDGE™ Polymeric Flame Retardant Technology. A safer flame retardant in the polystyrene foams used to insulate walls, this additive provides a solution for extruded (XPS) and expanded (EPS) foams that can easily replace prior solutions that don’t meet the latest standards. After evaluating more than 100 potential substitutes through science and technology, the advancement meets the increasing demands of global energy efficiency regulations and safety.

Even if such materials aren’t the most visible building blocks of a smart city, they are doing the important work of improving efficiency and safety. New science has enabled chemistries to help a city’s buildings embed efficiency and sustainability into the very walls, roads and roofs of the city structures.

Through collaboration with organizations such as the Smart Cities Council, Dow continues to increase confidence in the safe use of these proven chemical technologies to existing and older buildings, providing occupants with greater comfort and improved sustainability and safety. The Council recognizes that technology and innovation among smart buildings is used to monitor and control a wide range of building functions — fire safety among them.

Commercial, residential and industrial building systems are at the core of every city – making these buildings energy efficient, safe and sustainable ensures a city is smart at its core.