The Need for Boston to Beat the Heat

The Need for Boston to Beat the Heat

Temperatures in Boston are rising each year. Stretching several days at a time in July and August, two heat waves with temperatures over 90⁰ F have rattled our city, with the adverse impacts felt most acutely by vulnerable residents. In anticipation of a future where temperatures will continue to rise, improvements must be made to ensure that low-income communities and communities of color, which are disproportionately impacted by climate change, are able to adapt to hotter weather for the safety and wellbeing of residents.

At IBA, we have always been mindful of the wellbeing and safety of our residents. Villa Victoria was designed with the ideal city in mind. Tree coverage along our walkways, seating areas, playgrounds, and green spaces create shade for the comfort of our residents, demonstrating that dense residential development does not have to be without vegetation. In addition, our low-rise buildings don’t attract as much heat as high-rise towers. The City of Boston’s Heat Resilience Plan also outlines ways in which the city can “increase heat resilience and address the impacts of climate change,” with solutions ranging from transforming impermeable spaces, like streets, into green spaces to investing in energy infrastructure (The City of Boston). We hope to see these initiatives continue to combat the negative impact climatic conditions have on our communities.

Communities of color and low-income neighborhoods are disproportionately impacted by climate change and the urban heat island effect, which is created in high density communities with heat-absorbing surfaces and not enough greenspace. A 2020 study found that 94% of communities that experience hazardous heat levels are located in formerly redlined districts – areas historically shaped by racial segregation, disenfranchisement, and underinvestment (see our September 2021 blog to learn about redlining). These communities have long been left out of urban forestry and improvement efforts that aim to reduce surface heat levels and improve comfort.

Extreme heat – particularly when there’s no reprieve – can be dangerous. During heat waves, dehydration and the inability for the human body to cool down can result in “rapid pulse, nausea or a loss of consciousness,” rendering heat stroke, although rare, a possibility. During heatwaves in Boston, the City’s Emergency Medical Services department sees a major uptick in emergency calls, usually by 15 to 20 percent. Often, those who are most vulnerable – the elderly, individuals experiencing housing instability, children, and low-income residents – are most at risk.

Heat is an equity issue. At IBA, we support efforts to improve communities overburdened by the impacts of environmental injustice, underinvestment, and climate change. Villa Victoria can serve as a model for developers and policymakers looking for fundamental, effective ways to reduce heat levels. We look forward to being a partner for those who are willing to learn and interested in tackling climate change as we face a hotter future.