UREx SRN Alumni: Beating the heat in Phoenix neighborhoods

Melissa GuardaroSchool of Sustainability PhD graduate, Melissa Guardaro has made an impact on heat action planning in Phoenix, Arizona. As part of the Nature’s Cooling System Project, Guardaro strove to address social and geographical equity concerns related to heat mitigation and adaptation strategies in under-served areas. She partnered with local groups including the Nature Conservancy, community based organizations, city officials, and the public health department to develop heat action plans for three low-income communities: Edison-Eastlake Community, Mesa Care Neighborhood, and Lindo Park-Roesley Park Neighborhood. Through a series of collaborative workshops, neighborhood residents highlighted community needs through the storytelling of extreme heat event experiences. Each of the three neighborhoods were also mapped for hot spot, intervention points and cool spot asset locations. Volunteers, including residents, also participated in a HeatMappers Walk to understand resident perceptions of comfort and heat for various “hot spots” in the Edison-Eastlake Community, and participant perceptions on thermal comfort were provided for these various locations. Solution stories were created that included resident ideas for how to address community needs for extreme heat events; results were similar across neighborhoods, though specific applications differed slightly across the neighborhoods. Heat Action Plans were developed for each of the neighborhoods and are available for review in the UREx Research Themes. Guardaro says, “I think the biggest hurdle is that mitigating heat is nobody’s responsibility, yet it’s everybody’s concern. So we’re trying to get as many people together [as we can] to talk about this and make urban heat a primary concern.” As a result of the heat action planning workshops and planning, relationships were strengthened between researchers, neighborhoods, community-based organizations, and city decision makers. Guardaro’s work was featured in the Scientific American and is part of an ongoing effort to respond to thermal comfort concerns by involving resident contributions during the decision-making processes.