A coastal city, Boston is familiar with the complex challenges and risks associated with climate change, including sea level rise, increasingly frequent and intense storms, and extreme temperature variability. That last concern is critical, as hotter summers and extended periods of heat stress present a threat to the City’s infrastructure, systems, natural environments and the health and safety of its residents.
As part of its ongoing Climate Ready Boston initiative, the city partnered with a team of consultants to develop the Heat Resilience Solutions for Boston action plan. “The Heat Plan,” which serves as a framework to address the near-term and long-term impacts of extreme heat, puts environmental justice at its center to drive more just, equitable solutions for overburdened neighborhoods. The city recognizes that centering people and lived experiences in the plan, next to policies and strategies, enables bold and creative actions that serve the unique needs of each community.
The Heat Plan defines what heat resilience means: providing resources for all residents to stay cool and safe, investing in temperature reduction in hotspot areas, and transforming both indoor and outdoor spaces to protect public health and wellbeing. It also outlines various heat risk factors including heat exposure (intensity and duration); heat sensitivity (level of impact); and adaptive capacity (ability to adjust). The plan also provides extensive current and future heat trends data, as well as specific strategies to build citywide resilience to these trends.
The project team developed The Heat Plan in three phases: 1) analysis and existing information review, 2) heat resilience strategies, and 3) implementation roadmap and final report.
WSP’s scope of work involved evaluating the lifecycle benefits and costs of heat resilience solutions at a variety of facilities, including multi-family affordable housing units and triple-decker residential buildings — to reduce heat-related mortality and hospitalizations and improve energy efficiency — and school facilities, to help reduce the number of school days missed to avoid projected impacts to learning and achievement, student lifetime income and head of household income lost.
WSP also assessed the lifecycle benefits and costs of cool main streets. Identified benefits included decreased perceived temperature; better quality of life, economic and workforce development, education and saving of resources for communities; improved energy efficiency for buildings along corridor; and reduction in heat-related health issues.
The work and resulting plan will support the prioritization of heat resiliency solutions and the development and implementation of strategies for the City of Boston.