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Anticipated “Heat Belt” Means Different Design Requirements

In August 2022, research company First Street Foundation released its extreme heat model report. The peer-reviewed model found that 50 counties in the United State, with a population totaling 8.1 million residents, could experience temperatures above 125 degrees in 2023.

And it gets worse. By 2053, 1,023 counties are expected to meet or exceed this temperature, impacting 107.6 Americans, and covering one-quarter of the United States’ land mass. This “Extreme Heat Belt,” the report said, will reach from the North Texas and Louisiana borders to the Midwest, as far north as Wisconsin.

In response, J.D. Harper, sustainability leader at Cooper Carry, suggested that the built environment should be shifted to meet this problem of extreme heat in the coming decades. In a recent article he wrote for Urban Land Magazine, Harper suggested four design approaches that could help with extreme heat challenges.

Shade for Building Interiors

Because buildings’ mechanical systems are stressed during hot summers, Harper’s suggestion was that window and cladding designs be put into place to “maintain thermal comfort in the event mechanical systems are down.” He pointed to the example of Avocet Tower in Bethesda, MD, which has a glazing system called “View Glass.” The system creates shade on demand and turns darker when extreme heat is in evidence.

Passive House Principles

Passive housing means it’s comfortable for occupants during both summer and winter months without an active heating or colling system. “New construction projects have the opportunity to build passive house principles into the building design, with an emphasis on tighter building envelope, high-performance doors and windows, and energy-recovery ventilation,” Harper wrote.

Urban Heat Island Effect Reduction

Designing green and “soft” spaces in and around buildings can help excess heat to be absorbed during hot days in the city. Harper discussed a vegetated roofing system that Cooper Carry recently designed for an Ohio hotel. This “Purple Roof System” has 14,000 square feet of vegetation above grand ballroom space, and also acts as a stormwater detention system.

All-Electric Buildings

While all-electric buildings might be expensive, “we encourage developers to explore their options,” Harper said. In some cases, going all electric (versus gas line installation) can help construction budgets, promote environmental sustainability and help reduce long-term operating costs of a project.


Inside The Story

Cooper Carry's J.D. Harper

About Amy Wolff Sorter

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