Travel Log by Bryn: Global Solutions for Local Problems (Part II)

Travel Log by Bryn: Part II

4: Some Top Take-Aways from the IC2UHI Conference

The three-day International Conference on Countermeasures to Urban Heat Islands (IC2UHI) was a forum for researchers to share their latest approaches at understanding how different strategies can protect people from the harms of urban heat.

Some of the plenary sessions focused on evaluation metrics. They discussed how surface temperature readings (aka. how hot the ground is) don’t always accurately describe the heat that people experience. Due to wind currents, the air that is heated up by hot surfaces (like asphalt) or cooled by bodies of water can travel, and so the air temperature of a certain location is not always so closely correlated with the temperature of the ground in that exact spot. Besides air temperature, people’s comfort and health is also affected by their exposure to direct or indirect solar radiation.

For the breakout sessions, where researchers presented their findings from technical peer-reviewed papers, I jumped around from room to room to catch the presentations that seemed to be most relevant to the issues we’re facing in Los Angeles. After a misleading CityLab article came out earlier this fall, which called to question whether the light bouncing off of cool pavement did more harm than good for pedestrians, I was especially keen on attending presentations that dealt with this matter of shortwave and longwave reflected energy. I’m happy to report that contrary to what that sensationalist piece of journalism inferred, in fact, the research community affirms that the way Los Angeles has been using cool pavement on streets is decidedly good for human health and comfort. When one takes into account all of the wavelengths of energy that affect a person’s comfort and health, the optimal reflectivity for cool pavements is 35%, which is exactly what we’ve been piloting in Los Angeles. We’re on the right track, and the international research community had a lot of praise to dole out for LA’s willingness to lead and learn lessons that can inform efforts the world over.

There was a lot of hype building up for Jennifer and my presentation, which was scheduled for the final day of the conference in a large plenary format. We were pretty excited to share how Los Angeles’s cool pavement pilot program has borne out over the past two and a half years, while also using this opportunity to share our wishes with the researchers. That is, the areas where more research is needed. We requested their help in understanding how we can overcome some of the obstacles that we’ve encountered.

You can see our slide deck here, and we’ll post a link to the recording of our presentation once it’s shared by the conference organizers. We discussed LA’s motivations for addressing urban heat, the metrics for success that are informing our efforts, and we recounted the eight phases of the cool pavement pilot program that have been rolled out to date. The engaged audience had many questions for us, and many of the researchers approached us afterward, too, to suggest paths for meeting our research needs. In a sea full of researchers, we two practitioners were enthusiastically enveloped in a multitude of discussions around how we can maximize Los Angeles’s cool pavement program for the good of Angelenos.

Click image to see a PDF version of the presentation.
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