Cities can take action to improve conditions during extreme heat events and prevent heat-related deaths, many of which occur in low-income communities.
As cities grow, so does their potential to generate heat, writes Matt Simon. “A city’s roads, buildings, and other infrastructure absorb the sun’s energy, raising temperatures far above those in surrounding rural areas.”
Combined with climate change, this “hyperlocal and erratic” effect, which can vary widely even from house to house, is making it “increasingly difficult to keep vulnerable (and rapidly growing) populations safe during extreme heat events.” As Simon points out, “For example, different kinds of building materials, like brick or wood, absorb and release heat differently. And tall buildings block winds that would otherwise cool a landscape.” Additionally, “This is a problem that doesn’t end when the sun goes down, because the built environment slowly releases its warmth throughout the night, keeping temperatures high.” And “Low-income neighborhoods have it worse, as apartments often lack AC to bring cool air in and proper insulation to keep warm air out. These neighborhoods also have less tree cover, which in richer neighborhoods helps attenuate the heat.”
Edith de Guzman, director and cofounder of the Los Angeles Urban Cooling Collaborative and her colleagues used simulations to assess how heat mitigation measures could improve outcomes in Los Angeles. “They found that making simple tweaks to the built environment, primarily adding trees and painting roofs light colors, would save one in four lives that would normally be lost to heat events.”
Simon asserts that “Perhaps it's time to think of heat as a treatable disease that affects a city, not just its people. Working with community leaders, cities like LA can develop more green spaces, for example,” and implement other strategies to help save lives during the heat waves that are becoming more and more common.
How Sharrows Became Cycling’s Most Hated Symbol
Originally designed as a low-cost way to encourage safer road sharing between bikes and cars, the sharrow has become a symbol of the lack of commitment to protected bike infrastructure in many cities.
Keanu Reeves Set to Play Daniel Burnham in ‘The Devil in the White City’
Planning is going to get a new level of star power as a limited series adaptation of The Devil in the White City gets ready for television screens in 2024.
Massive, Vacant L.A. Hospital To Become Affordable Housing
The historic building will be redeveloped with over 500 housing units and supportive services on site.
Fire Evacuation Planning at the Community Level
Wildfire planning often focuses on individual buildings, but little guidance exists for effective citywide evacuation planning.
Where Is Salt Lake City’s Tiny Home Village?
A proposed ‘tiny home village’ meant to serve as temporary housing for unhoused residents has yet to break ground more than a year after it was announced.
How Communities Can Leverage Federal Vision Zero Funding To Make Streets Safer
Two safe streets advocates give their recommendations for how to effectively use the $1 billion in annual funding available through a federal grant program.
Sun City Center Community Association, Inc
City of Mesa
Town of Gilbert, Arizona
This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.