Summer in the city: Preparing for extreme heat

Submitted by digital on Mon, 03/28/2016 - 15:49
{"version":"0.3.0","atoms":[],"cards":[],"markups":[["b"],["em"]],"sections":[[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"Each year in the United\nStates, more people die from heat waves than from any other type of natural\ndisaster, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The\nNational Climate Assessment projects an increase in the risk, intensity, and\nduration of extreme heat events over the next century. Elderly populations are\nespecially at risk for heat-related morbidity and mortality because of changes\nin how the body regulates temperature as it ages; seniors are also more likely\nto live alone, have reduced social contacts, and have medical conditions like\nheart or renal disease."]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"Both people and\nbuildings need to be resilient to heat storms; this involves improving personal\nhealth and reducing thermal exposure. Although preexisting medical conditions\nare a critical factor in temperature-related morbidity and mortality, this\narticle focuses on how architects can help to reduce exposure to high\ntemperatures through effective design of the built environment."]]],[1,"h3",[[0,[],0,"City and Local Strategies"]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"At the city level, the\nurban heat island effect increases exposure to temperature. Urban heat islands\nare broadly defined as the temperature difference between urbanized areas and\ntheir rural surroundings. Urban heat islands are a byproduct of all human\nsettlements; they increase temperature exposure during heat waves, spur\nelectrical demand associated with air-conditioning, and generate more smog at\nthe ground level. "]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"Common design\nstrategies such as increasing the tree canopy, reducing the amount of paving,\nand cool roofing materials can help to lower local temperatures. These measures\nalso provide environmental benefits like reducing air pollution and stormwater runoff."]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"At the neighborhood\nlevel, cooling centers can help to reduce personal exposure to high\ntemperatures and humidity. Cooling centers have been shown to be effective\nduring extreme heat events; in the 1995 heat wave in Chicago they cut the risk\nof dying in half (Semenza, Rubin et al. 1996). "]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"However, not all\nresidents have access to cooling centers because of limited mobility or a lack\nof transportation options. Architects can combat these problems by working with\nlocal officials to ensure that public buildings are accessible and by\nadvocating for universal design; they can also lobby local officials to improve\npublic transportation options."]]],[1,"h3",[[0,[],0,"Cooling the Home"]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"At the household\nlevel, air-conditioning is an effective strategy to reduce heat-related\nillness. While many homes in the United States have air-conditioning systems,\nthey are less common in low-income populations. A number of cities distribute\nfree window air-conditioners to senior citizens and low-income residents; while\nthis may eliminate first cost as a barrier, energy costs may be a longer-term\nissue."]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"Although the Low\nIncome Home Energy Assistance Program provides federal funding to low-income\nhouseholds to pay utility bills, this assistance does not address a broader\nissue: air-conditioning systems have strained electrical distribution systems\nin the United States. Therefore, alternatives to residential air-conditioning\nare critical because these \u201cpassive\u201d systems do not require electricity to provide\na protective effect and could continue to operate during a power outage."]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"Passive systems are\ndefined as those that use no purchased energy to operate, play multiple roles\nin a building design, and are tightly integrated with the building structure.\nBefore the advent of air-conditioning, passive systems were the norm in\nbuilding design; window shading, light-colored materials and coatings,\ninsulation, and radiant barriers are all building-level systems that can reduce\nindoor exposure to temperature. "]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"There is a renewed\ninterest in passive systems because they continue to provide some protective\neffects during a power outage; this effect is called \u201cpassive\nsurvivability.\u201d However, while passive systems can moderate interior\ntemperatures, they cannot eliminate heat-related exposure during heat extremes;\nthese systems typically provide conditions that are within a few degrees of the\noutdoor air temperature."]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"Because no single\nstrategy is totally effective in reducing exposure to high temperatures,\nplanning for extreme heat events will require addressing high temperatures at\nall three scales: reducing the urban heat island effect, improving cooling\ncenter accessibility, and designing in multiple strategies (in addition to\nair-conditioning) to ensure that buildings can remain habitable during power\noutages. Each of these approaches are already discussed by the design\ncommunity: the challenge will be to make the strategies work together in\nconcert to be prepared for a changing climate."]]],[1,"p",[[0,[0],1,"About the Author"]]],[1,"p",[[0,[1],1,"Nicholas B. Rajkovich,\nPhD, AIA, is an assistant\nprofessor at the\nUniversity at Buffalo in the School of Architecture and Planning. His research\ninvestigates adaptation to climate change in cities and buildings. Prior to\nearning a PhD in Urban and Regional Planning from the University of Michigan,\nhe was a Senior Program Engineer at the Pacific Gas \u0026 Electric (PG\u0026E)\nCompany Customer Energy Efficiency Department. Prior to PG\u0026E, Nicholas\ntaught several courses on lighting, acoustics, and building systems in the\nDepartment of Architecture at Cornell University. He also worked as an\nassociate at Einhorn Yaffee Prescott in Albany, NY, where he helped architects\nand engineers reduce the overall environmental impact of buildings under\ncontract to the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority and\nthe U.S. Department of State. He has a Master of Architecture from the\nUniversity of Oregon and a Bachelor of Architecture from Cornell University."]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"\n\n\n\n"]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"\n\n\n\n"]]]]}
How architects can help to reduce exposure to high temperatures through effective design of the built environment.
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