Extreme Heat and Urban Heat Island

Washington, D.C.: Smart Roof Program

City: Washington
Country / US State / US Territory: D.C.
Type of Solution: Roof
Climate Impact: Extreme Temperatures and Urban Heat Island Effect
Social Value Created: Educational and Career Development Opportunities; Employment Opportunities; Public Health and Safety

Washington, D.C. has a Smart Roof Program that was implemented to counteract the Urban Heat Island (UHI) effect. The program integrated roof asset and energy management projects to retrofit roofs of 435 buildings, totalling 321 acres of roof area, including schools, police stations, fire stations, park and recreation centers, and office buildings.

Program objectives include energy conservation, stormwater management, heat reflection, solar energy production, carbon management, and leading through use of best practices and community involvement. The Washington, D.C. Department of General Services is projected to save $33 million over 20 years and will result in a reduction of 20,000 metric tons of CO2e annually. Additionally, the project addressed safety issues of the aging roofs.

The program focused on two types of roofs: vegetative (green) roofs and cool roofs. Vegetative roofs are used to teach students about botany, and solar PV installations on cool roofs are used as vocational education for students on renewable energy technologies through the DC Greenworks apprenticeship program. Projects were also used to support job creation and training in the local community.

Bluefin. (n.d.). Success stories: SmartRoof Program makes Washington DC one of the greenest cities in America. Retrieved from http://www.bluefinllc.com/success-stories/smartroof-program-makes-washington-dc-one-of-the-greenest-city-in-america/.

Rast, Richard. (October, 2013). Washington D.C. Smart Roof Program. Bluefin.

The Adaptation Clearinghouse. (n.d.). Washington D.C. smart roof – roof asset and energy management program. Retrieved from http://www.adaptationclearinghouse.org/resources/washington-d-c-smart-roof-roof-asset-and-energy-management-program.html.

San Diego, California: Environmental Health Coalition

City: San Diego
Country / US State / US Territory: California
Type of Solution: Awareness Campaign / Community Outreach and Education Program
Climate Impact: Extreme Temperatures and Urban Heat Island Effect; Air Quality; Extreme Precipitation and Flooding
Social Value Created: Community Engagement; Public Education; Public Health and Safety; Equitable Services and Access; Social Justice and Equity for Vulnerable Communities

The Environmental Health Coalition is a community-based organization focusing on bringing climate justice to low-income communities of immigrants and refugees in San Diego, California. The program has developed bilingual education materials, such as brochures, posters, and promotoras, about air pollution, climate change, and climate impacts. These materials focus on solutions community members can implement that will also save money.

EHC has also facilitated the development of a climate action plan for these communities, focusing on transportation justice, energy justice, good jobs, climate change resilience, and bold goals, state, and local climate laws.

Fig: Example of a sign used to communicate the health risks of climate change


Rudolph, L. Gould, S., & Berko, J. (2015). Climate change, health and equity: opportunities for action. Public Health Institute, Oakland, CA. Retrieved from http://www.phi.org/uploads/application/files/h7fjouo1i38v3tu427p9s9kcmhs3oxsi7tsg1fovh3yesd5hxu.pdf.

Phoenix, Arizona: Resilience AmeriCorps

City: Phoenix
Country / US State / US Territory: Arizona
Type of Solution: Volunteer / Community Group
Climate Impact: Extreme Temperatures and Urban Heat Island Effect; Air Quality; Extreme Precipitation and Flooding
Social Value Created: Social Justice and Equity for Vulnerable Communities; Community Engagement; Public Education; Diverse Transportation; Public Health and Safety; Urban Beautification; Community Wellbeing and Quality of Life

The City of Phoenix is participating in the national Resilience AmeriCorps program. The local program is called Resilient PHX. Volunteers assist low-income communities with projects to build community capacity. Resilient PHX has already completed a number of projects, such as Grandview Message Boards, Grand Avenue Curb Cut/Rain Garden, and Triangle Tree Planting.

Three message boards were installed in the Grandview Neighborhood to improve communication of climate risks, such as the risks of extreme heat in vulnerable communities, specifically low-income residents, elderly residents, and renters.

Another project was the Grand Avenue Curb Cut/Rain Garden. The curb cut/rain garden improves stormwater management to prevent flooding risks during heavy precipitation events. In addition to improved stormwater management, the project created more greenspace for residents and improved aesthetics, walkability, and shade coverage.

Lastly, the Triangle Tree Planting project was a community outreach program that engaged residents in tree planting and taught residents tree maintenance in an effort to mitigate extreme heat and the heat island effect. Trees increase shade coverage, which also contributes the the walkability of the area.

Sources: City of Phoenix. (n.d.). Resilient PHX. Retrieved from https://www.phoenix.gov/volunteer/resilient-phx.

Phoenix, Arizona: Civic Space Park

City: Phoenix
Country / US State / US Territory: Arizona
Type of Solution: Park
Climate Impact: Extreme Temperatures and Urban Heat Island Effect; Air Quality; Extreme Precipitation and Flooding
Social Value Created: Public Space; Social Cohesion; Diverse Transportation; Connectivity; Active Living and Recreation; Arts and Culture

Phoenix, Arizona is a classic example of urban sprawl. The city is already facing issues with extreme temperatures, which is further amplified by the urban heat island effect. Civic Space Park is a 2.7 acre park located in Phoenix that includes green space with trees to mitigate extreme temperatures and provide shade for residents. Solar panels producing 75 kilowatts of renewable energy provide additional shade. Also, the green infrastructure improves stormwater management, which is helpful during monsoon season.

Not only is the park helpful in managing climate risks, but the park is a public space contributing the social cohesion and providing a number of other social benefits. The park features a number of artistic featurings, including a nighttime lighting show simulating lightning during a monsoon and an art installation, titled, “Her Secret is Patience.” This title arose from a phase used by Ralph Waldo Emerson that was inspired by elements of Arizona nature. There is also an interactive water feature, providing a playspace for children and adults.

The park promotes recreation and leisure, providing a turf landscape in the southwest corner of the park with pedestrian-scale retaining walls, game tables, benches, and densely spaced shade trees. The site is also located adjacent to the METRO Light Rail, increasing access to the park through improved connectivity and promoting diverse transportation.

Fig: Birds eye view of Civic Space Park (Photo retrieved from http://worldlandscapearchitect.com/civic-space-park-phoenix-usa-aecom/#.W1HvvdJKiUk)

Fig: LED lights with nighttime lighting show (Photo retrieved from http://worldlandscapearchitect.com/civic-space-park-phoenix-usa-aecom/#.W1HvvdJKiUk)

Fig: Interactive water feature with the “Her Secret is Patience” art installation above (Image retrieved from http://worldlandscapearchitect.com/civic-space-park-phoenix-usa-aecom/#.W1HvvdJKiUk)

Source: AECOM. (July 23, 2013). Civic Space Park, Phoenix USA. World Landscape Architecture. Retrieved from

*Note: This case was documented from an interview with a city practitioner.

Miami, Florida: CLEAR Miami

City: Miami
Country / US State / US Territory: Florida
Type of Solution: Volunteer / Community Group Program
Climate Impact: Seal Level Rise; Hurricanes and Storm Surge; Extreme Heat and Urban Heat Island Effect; Infectious Disease
Social Value Created: Public education and awareness, community engagement, social cohesion, benefits vulnerable communities

Catalyst Miami is a community organization that has conventionally focused on providing social services, such as health coaching and financial planning. Recently, the group has begun to engage vulnerable communities in local climate initiatives.

In 2016, Catalyst Miami launched its CLEAR Miami (Community Leadership on the Environment, Advocacy, and Resilience) program. CLEAR Miami is a 12 week program that teaches residents how to participate in the climate planning process, including the basics of climate change science, types of adaptation strategies, communication skills for public speaking, and how to create an asset map for their neighborhoods.

Community members learn about the risk of Seal Level Rise and Inundation, hurricanes and storm surge, extreme heat and the urban heat island effect, and the spread of infectious disease. The program focuses on financially vulnerable populations given their disproportionate level of risks to climate impacts. Those who participate in the program are provided dinner and childcare for free.

The Southeast Florida Climate Compact is working on updating an adaptation plan and developing a mitigation plan. Catalyst Miami is working on engaging residents in this planning process to ensure equitable solutions are chosen.

Fig: The first CLEAR Miami graduates (Photo retrieved from https://catalystmiami.org/climate-resilience-local-engagement/)

Fig: CLEAR Miami Youth graduates talking about why they advocate for climate change (Photo retrieved from https://catalystmiami.org/climate-resilience-local-engagement/)

Sources: Delahunty, M. (2016). Catalyst Miami launches pioneering climate resilience training in South Florida. Catalyst Miami. Retrieved from

United States Water Alliance. (2017). An equitable water future: a national briefing paper. Retrieved from http://uswateralliance.org/sites/uswateralliance.org/files/publications/uswa_waterequity_FINAL.pdf

*Note: This case was documented from an interview with a city practitioner.

Los Angeles, California: Green Alley

City: Los Angeles
Country / US State / US Territory: California
Type of Solution: Alleyway
Climate Impact: Extreme Temperatures and Urban Heat Island Effect; Air Quality; Extreme Precipitation and Flooding
Social Value Created: Connectivity; Diverse Transportation; Public Health and Safety; Community Engagement; Social Cohesion; Arts and Culture; Public Education and Awareness

Los Angeles has over 900 of miles of alleys that are often used for dumping and experience high instances of crime. The Trust for Public Land Climate Smart Cities program is a national program for assisting cities in projects to mitigate and adapt to climate change. The Avalon Green Alley Demonstration project repurposed a mile of underutilized alleyways in South Los Angeles into green alleys.

The Trust for Public Land Climate Smart Cities collaborated with the City of Los Angeles, UCLA, and Arizona State University to create green alleys in South Los Angeles. These green alleys improve air quality and contribute to urban cooling, mitigating extreme temperatures and the urban heat island effect.

The green alley also helps to filter pollutants from stormwater runoff and control stormwater, mitigating flooding and recharging the groundwater. Additionally, the repurposed alleyways provide recreational space and improve the walkability and bikeability of the area. The green alley creates a safe passageway between various key destinations in the area, including a grocery store and nearby schools. The safe passageway improves community connectivity.

A volunteer group, Equipo Verde (Green Team), manages the green alley, organizing volunteer days, picking up garbage, and landscaping and planting trees. The group improves community engagement and educates the local community on the importance of managing these alleyways.

Fig: The Green Alley Demonstration Project completed by The Trust for Public Land (Retrieved from https://www.tpl.org/green-alleys#sm.0000ca4mkgzx8en8zd02b2m3nuov7)

Fig: Members of Equipo Verde working on the landscaping in the green alley (Retrieved from https://www.tpl.org/verde#sm.0000ca4mkgzx8en8zd02b2m3nuov7)

Sources: The Trust for Public Land. (March 17, 2016). Meet the Equipo Verde: allies for alleys. Retrieved from https://www.tpl.org/verde#sm.0000ca4mkgzx8en8zd02b2m3nuov7.

The Trust for Public Land. (n.d.). Green alleys. Retrieved from https://www.tpl.org/green-alleys#sm.0000ca4mkgzx8en8zd02b2m3nuov7.

Hermosillo, Mexico: Community Monitoring System for Heat Waves

City: Hermosillo
Country / US State / US Territory: Mexico
Type of Solution: Community Group
Climate Impact: Extreme Heat and Urban Heat Island Effect
Social Value Created: Public Education and Awareness; Community Engagement

The City of Hermosillo has begun to make improvements to accessibility of weather data. Weather data is now available once a day with weather predictions for the following day. However, the data provided to residents is minimal and are inadequate in alerting residents of dangerous heat waves.

A citizen monitoring program was in summer 2018 to empower local citizens to create their own early warning system. The city was divided into nine sectors, and mothers, the head of the households, were recruited to help develop a map of thermal exposure around the city and understand when and how long heat waves are occurring. The mothers help to collect and interpret data for air temperature and pollution. When a heat wave occurs, the mothers act as the early warning system in their neighborhoods, sharing the information with family, friends, and neighbors.

The program will be supported next summer and will provide participants with monitoring devices and cellphones to check the temperature and inform others. The goal of the program is the empower the community members to protect themselves through improved public education and awareness.

Cleveland, Ohio: Urban Agriculture Innovation Zone

City: Cleveland
Country / US State / US Territory: Ohio
Type of Solution: Vacant Properties and Lots
Climate Impact: Extreme Temperatures and Urban Heat Island Effect; Air Quality; Extreme Precipitation and Flooding
Social Value Created: Food Security and Nutrition; Educational and Employment Opportunities; Equitable and Affordable Services; Property Values

In an effort to counteract climate impacts, such as extreme temperatures, air quality issues, and heavy precipitation flooding, Cleveland, Ohio is working on improving its urban tree canopy and urban agriculture in low-income neighborhoods. Cleveland has placed a priority on socially equitable climate adaptation solutions, seeking to have a variety of socioeconomic benefits, such as improving food security and nutrition, increasing property values, reducing energy and health costs, and promoting economic development and employment opportunities.

The City has already developed 300 community gardens and urban farms, many of which are located on repurposed vacant lots. One example of a vacant lot project is the 26.5 acre Urban Agriculture Innovation Zone in the Kinsman Neighborhood that includes a number of initiatives, such as the Kinsman Farm and Rid-All Green Partnership.

Kinsman Farm is a 6-acre incubator farm that was established in 2010 as part a $1.1 million dollar grant from the USDA’s as part of the Beginner Farm and Rancher Development Program. Kinsman Farm provides new urban farmers seeking to start agricultural businesses with assets such as land, infrastructure, and education. New farmers gain valuable experience and learn how to successfully grow their operations before investing in a large-scale commercial farm.

The initiative is supported by Ohio State University (OSU) Extension, West Creek Conservancy, the City of Cleveland, and Burten, Bell, Carr Development Corporation. OSU Extension provides technical support and educates farmers on best practices, West Creek Conservancy leases the property and promotes sustainable agricultural practices, and Burten, Bell, Carr Development Corporation focuses on improving residents’ quality of life through initiatives to increase access to health food.

The Rid-All Green Partnership is another urban farm that occupies 1.5 acres in the Urban Agriculture Innovation Zone. The farm features two greenhouses, four hoop houses, a 40,000 square foot Aquaponics fishery, and a compost program. The compost program collects food waste from the Cleveland Food Bank, wood chips from the Cleveland Forestry Department, coffee grounds from local coffee shops, and excess hops from the Little Mountain Brewery and Black Box Brewery. In 2012, the Partnership produced 14,000 pounds of produce, raised 350 pounds of tilapia, and produced 1,200 cubic yards of compost.

The Partnership seeks to improve food security and nutrition in the local community. Additionally, the Partnership has a strong focus on community education, educating both the adult and youth population. There are a variety of education programs, including the Five Month Training Program, Weekend Workshops, Victory Garden Initiative, Ohio Apprenticeship Program, and Youth Educational Program.

Fig: Kinsman Farm. (Photo retrieved from https://cuyahoga.osu.edu/program-areas/agriculture-and-natural-resources/market-gardening-and-urban-farming/kinsman-farm – No longer an active link)

Fig: Rid-All Green Partnership urban farm (Photo retrieved from https://www.greennghetto.org/?page_id=89)

Fig: Man holding Tilapia raised by the Rid-All Green Partnership (Photo retrieved from https://www.greennghetto.org/?attachment_id=184).

Kelly, C., Peterson, M., Auel, E., Taraska, G., & Qian, P. (2016). Resilient midwestern cities: improving equity in a changing climate. Center for American Progress. Retrieved from https://cdn.americanprogress.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/18135245/ResilientMidwest-report1.pdf.

OSU Extension. (n.d.). Kinsman Farm. Retrieved from https://cuyahoga.osu.edu/program-areas/agriculture-and-natural-resources/market-gardening-and-urban-farming/kinsman-farm. No longer an active link

Rid-All Green Partnership. (n.d.). What we do. Retrieved from https://www.greennghetto.org/?page_id=68.

Rid-All Green Partnership. (n.d.). Training programs. Retrieved from https://www.greennghetto.org/?page_id=768.

West Creek Conservancy. (n.d.). Kinsman Farm. Retrieved from http://westcreek.org/portfolio-view/kinsman-farm/.

Chicago, Illinois: Urban Forest Initiative

City: Chicago
Country / US State / US Territory: Illinois
Type of Solution: Streets and Parking Lots
Climate Impact: Extreme Temperatures and Urban Heat Island Effect; Air Quality; Extreme Precipitation and Flooding; Invasive Species and Pests
Social Value Created: Public Education and Awareness; Community Engagement

The Chicago Regional Trees Initiative is working to increase the tree canopy in the city area. Increasing the tree canopy will help to mitigate extreme temperatures and the urban heat island (UHI) effect, as well as to improve stormwater management to prevent flooding during heavy precipitation events.

Additionally, pest resistant species are being selected to reduce vulnerability to invasive species, such as the Emerald Ash Borer. The city has lost 13 million ash trees already from the Emerald Ash Borer. Members of the initiative help to teach communities how to plan and care for trees, increasing community education and engaging community members.

Further, the initiative is working on incorporating vulnerability into its plans for tree plantings. The Urban Forestry Climate Change Response Framework vulnerability assessment is referenced by the initiative. The framework examines social factors of adaptive capacity, examining aspects such as the value of trees to residents, volunteer base size, and presence of incentives to increase public participation and interest. This framework also recommends a community vulnerability workshop to assist in evaluating vulnerability, educating community members and engaging them in the project.

Fig: Chicago Regional Trees Initiative members teaching residents how to properly plant and care for trees

Brandt, L.; Scott, L.; Derby Lewis, A.; Darling, L.; Fahey R. 2016. Lessons learned from the
Urban Forestry Climate Change Response Framework. Houghton, MI: Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science. 36 pp.

U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit. (n.d.). Fortifying Chicago’s urban forest. Retrieved from https://toolkit.climate.gov/case-studies/fortifying-chicagos-urban-forest.

Chicago, Illinois: Pilsen Sustainable Streets

City: Chicago
Country / US State / US Territory: Illinois
Type of Solution: Streets and Parking Lots
Climate Impact: Extreme Temperatures and Urban Heat Island Effect; Extreme Precipitation and Flooding
Social Value Created: Public Health and Safety; Water Security and Quality; Diverse Transportation; Public Education; Public Education and Awareness; Community Wellbeing and Quality of Life

The Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) implemented the Pilsen Sustainable Streets project in 2012. The project uses permeable pavement and green infrastructure, such as bioswales and rain gardens, manage projected increases in heavy precipitation and flooding. Stormwater filtration helps to remove pollutants, improving water quality. The City of Chicago has a combined sewer system, making the ability to effectively manage stormwater essential to protecting public health.

Additionally, green infrastructure contributes to improved air quality and urban cooling, counteracting extreme temperatures and the urban heat island effect. The area of vegetative landscapes and tree canopy were increased by 131%, providing more shaded areas, lowering the temperature, and increasing stormwater filtration. Increased shade and lowered temperatures improves comfort of community members and improves public health.

The project also resulted in creation of social value. A pedestrian refuge island was installed in Cermak Road and curb-corner extensions were created to improve pedestrian safety. Community outreach and education is another key feature of the project. Educational kiosks, a walking tour brochure, and a guidebook are available for community members to learn about the sustainable best practices employed by the project. These kiosks are powered by solar and wind energy.

Fig: Example of green infrastructure used in Pilsen Sustainable Streets project (Retrieved from https://www.wightco.com/work/pilsen-sustainable-street/)

Fig: LED light pole and educational kiosk (Retrieved from https://iitbuildingscience.wordpress.com/2013/09/09/greenest-sustainable-street-in-america/)

Fig: Walking tour educational brochure (Retrieved from https://www.wightco.com/projects/cermak-road-streetscape)

Sources: The Adaptation Clearinghouse. (May 13, 2016). Pilsen Sustainable Streets (Chicago, Illinois Department of Transportation. Retrieved from http://www.adaptationclearinghouse.org/resources/pilsen-sustainable-streets-chicago-illinois-department-of-transporation.html

The City of Chicago. (October 9, 2012). Transportation: City Unveils “Greenest Street in America” in Pilsen Neighborhood. Retrieved from https://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/cdot/provdrs/conservation_outreachgreenprograms/news/2012/oct/cdot_opens_the_pilsensustainablestreet.html.

Rotenberk, L. (October 8, 2012). The greenest mile: Chicago pushes the limits on sustainable streets. Grist Magazine. Retrieved from https://grist.org/cities/the-greenest-mile-chicago-pushes-the-limits-on-sustainable-streets/