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Boston business-backed advocacy group A Better City released a new report Thursday morning highlighting how private real estate – often an overlooked area – can help tone down the effects of extreme heat that will visit Boston as the climate warms.

“While we develop solutions to combat the worsening threat of coastal flooding – including from sea level rise, storm surge, and increased precipitation – we must also prioritize projects and strategies to mitigate the impacts of extreme heat. Forming collaborative partnerships to uplift community-led heat solutions can help us transition from planning to implementation,” A Better City President & CEO Kate Dineen said in a statement. “A Better City remains excited and eager to partner with our colleagues in the business community to ensure that we can build a more heat-resilient, safe, and thriving Boston for all.”

While not as visible as sea level rise or increasingly strong storms, extreme heat waves are another, increasing form of damage brought by climate change, the report says, and one whose impacts fall hardest and most fatally on poorer neighborhoods.

“Communities with minimal open and green space, and high amounts of heat-retaining buildings, concrete, and steel, develop into heat island communities, meaning that they can at times be 10-15 degrees hotter than surrounding communities with greater access to parks, coastal breezes and waterfronts, and green space,” the report says.

Many conversations about how to address extreme heat have, to date, focused on steps municipalities can take, like planting street trees or opening more cooling centers. A Better City’s report highlighted ways some private building owners, like Boston Medical Center, are modifying their buildings to reduce the local heat island.

In BMC’s case, the report said, that included adding a greenroof and rooftop farm to one of their buildings to reduce the amount of solar energy reflected back into the neighborhood. A Better City also called out developer LendLease’s Clippership Wharf project and Pembroke’s Seaport Place property for the inclusion of parks and waterfront access that add tree canopy and other types of green infrastructure to their neighborhoods.

Other strategies private developers can embrace, the report said, include adapting existing buildings to be more energy efficient, adding shade structures and adding public sources of drinking water.

The report was produced in collaboration with city officials in Boston and with the Boston Green Ribbon Commission, a private group of business and civic leaders, and comes a year after the city released its own framework for dealing with extreme heat driven by climate change.

Strategies outlined in the city’s plan include investing in “cool roofs” that are painted white or covered with greenery to prevent heat from getting absorbed into buildings and radiated out into neighborhoods, energy retrofits and air conditioning for existing homes and apartment buildings and making sure new buildings approved under the Boston Planning & Development Agency’s Article 80 process were designed to minimize heat impacts on neighborhoods, with shade standards potentially added to the city’s zoning code. Some projects, including a recently-approved affordable housing development in Roxbury, faced scrutiny of their heat impacts during development review.

“In the United States, extreme heat is the leading cause of weather-related deaths. The City of Boston knows that addressing extreme heat requires an all-hands-on deck approach to protect our residents,” Rev. Mariama White-Hammond, Boston’s chief of environment, energy and open space, said in a statement provided by A Better City “Working alongside A Better City and the Green Ribbon Commission furthers opportunities to address extreme heat risk with our partners in healthcare and real estate sectors, cultural and academic institutions, and more. We look forward to continued collaboration with A Better City, the Green Ribbon Commission, and their members to build a healthier, more heat-resilient city together.”

Report Highlights Ways Real Estate Can Combat Extreme Heat

by James Sanna time to read: 2 min
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