UBC Graduate Research

Adaptation to urban heat island effect in Vancouver, BC : a case study in analyzing vulnerability and adaptation opportunities Lesnikowski, Alexandra


Climate projections for the City of Vancouver indicate that by mid-century extreme heat events that now occur about once every 25 years will triple in frequency, with summer temperatures beyond 24°C expected to occur twice as often as today. The July 2009 heat wave brought attention to the health risks of extreme heat for Vancouver’s socially vulnerable populations, further reinforcing the seriousness of anticipated climate changes for community health and comfort in Vancouver. This report has two goals: i) to conduct a preliminary assessment of heat vulnerability in the City of Vancouver and examine opportunities for mainstreaming adaptation to urban heat island effect into existing policies; and ii) to propose an analytical framework for further engaging in discussion about urban heat island risk under the Vancouver Adaptation Strategy. This framework is rooted in social vulnerability analysis and uses neighbourhood-level population characteristics to identify areas of the city with the highest health vulnerability to extreme heat. To pilot this approach, one study area in Grandview-Woodland is selected that exhibits above average urban temperatures and a concentration of social vulnerability. This framework can be applied to other neighbourhoods in the future. An analysis of existing regulations, policies, and guidelines indicates that Vancouver’s building design and public space guidelines were crafted with underlying assumptions about a consistently temperate and rainy climate, and so emphasize access to sunlight and weather protection primarily from rain. With climate change projections indicating a future of hotter and drier summers, these policies need to be re-examined and the assumptions underpinning them adjusted to accommodate a greater number of annual hot days. Nineteen recommendations are made for further study of urban heat island conditions in Vancouver and for mainstreaming heat adaptation into existing policies and regulations.

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