The Adaptive Triad of Science, Policy, and Design

Today’s public sector and AEC professionals have the chance – or, arguably, the obligation – to translate the best available information into practices that foster heat resilience. At the beginning of the symposium, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Hunter Jones explained the current state of knowledge about the 20th-century history and 21st-century projections of rising temperatures. Jones also outlined efforts by NOAA, such as the new National Integrated Heat and Health Information System, which will help organize this evolving knowledge base into forms that citizens and institutional stakeholders can apply in making decisions. In particular, northern regions (historically the less heat-prepared part of the United States) should anticipate a future of rising average temperatures and more frequent, longer, and more humid heat waves. In addition, these regions can expect to experience less relief from nocturnal cooling than in the past.

NOAA Climate Program Office's Hunter Jones underscores the projection that global average temperatures will continue to rise.

NOAA Climate Program Office’s Hunter Jones underscores the projection that global average temperatures will continue to rise.

New York City’s public sector, long aware of the region’s acute vulnerability to the urban heat island effect, addresses heat management through multiple programs coordinated by the Office of Recovery and Resiliency. A policy overview by Kizzy Charles-Guzman, deputy director of Social Economic Resi emphasized specific thermal adaptation measures that are being taken, within the context of a comprehensive effort to strengthen New York’s built environment and social structures. The 2012 experience with Hurricane Sandy made it abundantly clear to today’s New Yorkers that advanced preparation for natural calamities saves lives and conserves quality of life. The City’s evolving strategic plans (currently guided by Mayor Bill de Blasio’s One New York document) emphasize the inseparability of equity and resilience, the need for actions at the local scale, the utility of a “vulnerability index” in planning interventions, and the value of multi-partner collaborations.

Broad-based efforts to adapt components of the built environment to thermal extremes are already under way. Andrew Whalley, AIA, of Grimshaw Architects shared how some of the firm’s projects draw on established strategies from regional cultures long accustomed to heat, while also incorporating more recent advances in engineering, materials, and parametric design. Biophilia and biomimesis are integral to such projects’ performance, driven by close observation of natural processes. Organisms and ecosystems occupying the Earth’s hottest regions, Whalley noted, have much to teach us about evapotranspiration, heat sources and sinks, water management, circadian rhythms, and other responses to solar gain.

Click here to read additional insights by Jones, Charles-Guzman, and Whalley.