The upgraded Medical University of South Carolina hospital has increased the energy efficiency of its buildings by replacing old boiler controls and sensors, retrofitting water fixtures and fume hoods and installing LED lighting upgrades. The renewable energy developer of the hospital, Ameresco, has projected an annual carbon reduction of 3,223 tonnes and annual energy savings of $2,839,000 (£2,275,000).
Dallas is the seventh hottest city in the USA according to the Texas Tree Foundation – a non-profit organisation that aims to improve green spaces and plant trees in urban areas. The foundation is combatting extreme heat and heat inequality using existing data from their urban heat island management study. It has set a target to protect and increase Dallas’ tree canopy from 32% to 37% by 2040, totalling to almost 15 million trees in the city. In 2015, the Texas Tree Foundation launched a ‘cool schools’ programme to plant more trees in lower income neighbourhoods, with the aim of providing at least a minimum of 27% shading and cooling relief. The programme has been an effective education effort and it has seen 300-500 children volunteers from each school participate in planting trees. To date the volunteers have planted over 2,000 trees around their school campuses.
The Texas Green Schools project in Houston has used heat watch mapping data to introduce a programme aimed at reducing energy consumption in schools and increasing access to green spaces for students in lower-income neighbourhoods. Measures include building shade structures and installing energy-efficient air conditioning systems to reduce indoor temperatures in schools by 15-20C (59-68F), and providing cooling relief for students who live in hotter neighbourhoods.
“Increasing building standards and building in a more energy-efficient way is integral to mitigate the effects of extreme weather, and the long-term effects on young children,” says O’Sullivan.
But gathering data for the heat maps can prove challenging. The project relies on accurate temperature readings from various sources, including community volunteers, weather stations and satellites.
“In some cases, there can be gaps in heat data particularly in areas where there is limited monitoring infrastructure. This can lead to incomplete heat maps, potentially overlooking hotspots or temperature extremes,” says Singer.
Defining the effectiveness of cooling measures can also be complex. Air conditioning, green roofs, tree planting and heat awareness campaigns have varying levels of advantages for vulnerable communities, and will depend on factors like the local climate of an area, ambient pollution – which can be 5% higher than in more rural areas – as well as building design and government maintenance and policy.
“Evaluating the impact of these measures requires rigorous monitoring and analysis which might not always be readily accessible,” says O’Sullivan.