How to Adapt Our Homes, Cities for a Hotter Future

Grist and Gizmodo design a 'model metropolis' in an age of rising temperatures
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 10, 2023 11:22 AM CDT
Our Homes Have to Change in This New Era
A person paints his rooftop with white reflective paint, which brings down indoor temperature in summer, in Ahmedabad, India.   (AP Photo/Ajit Solanki)

Life-threatening heat for weeks on end is becoming less of an anomaly in cities around the world, including the US. And it's more than a minor inconvenience. "Waiting 20 minutes for the bus in triple-digit weather isn't just unpleasant—it can be dangerous," observes a joint story by Grist and Gizmodo. The piece focuses on how forward-thinking cities, businesses, and individual homeowners can take steps to mitigate the heat. Some suggestions for this "model metropolis" in an age of rising temperatures:

  • Residential: Begin with this stat: More than 75% of the sunlight that hits windows in summer becomes heat. Thus, simple features such as awnings and overhangs with reflective paint work. Becoming more common are "smart windows," which feature thin adhesive films to keep heat out while remaining transparent when it's cold. Other suggestions: Painting roofs and walls white, especially as "cool paint technology" improves. In regard to home construction, "materials such as stone, concrete, clay, and mud have an ability to absorb and retain heat as opposed to conducting it indoors during the day, which keeps inside temperatures low." Not so good at that: wood.

  • Urban areas: "If you plan your density well, you can build in ways that are not going to increase heat risks," says Arizona State University's Sara Meerow. Suggestions: shaded structures to protect people at bus stops and the like (not a new concept, but designs are improving); more trees (low-income neighborhoods generally have fewer); water misters in public areas, which are miserly with water and thus OK for desert cities; reflective glass for buildings; "green" walls that make use of ivy or similar plants; "cool pavement" technology; smart air flow design for large buildings; and careful placement of new (tall) buildings to produce an "urban canyon" effect to keep things cooler on the ground.
  • Commercial: One example here is buffer zones. "If a city concentrates factories in one neighborhood, it should place a protective buffer around those factories, separating them from residential areas with forests or green space."
Read the full story for details on how all of the above works. (Or check out other longforms.)

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