#SummerScienceFriday | What do Climate Resilient Neighborhoods Look Like?

Last week, we introduced our community resilience theme and learned that climate change is expected to impact Southern California communities through rising temperatures, extreme weather patterns, and regional water scarcity. This week, we’re going to take a closer look at the ways neighborhoods can adapt, mitigate, and anticipate these climate challenges while enhancing community health and quality of life.

 

Photo, top: Wenk Associate's concept design for the LA River Revitalization Plan.

Photo, bottom: The concept design for Perkins + Will’s Blatchford Redevelopment plan. The photo is a concept design for a sustainable community in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada called an "agrihood" - agricultural neighborhood.

 

Climate Resilient Neighborhoods

It’s no secret that our urban neighborhoods are paved with lots of cement. All of this pavement absorbs and emits heat and can cause temperatures to rise up to 19° F above ambient temperatures in densely urbanized areas (Heat Island Impacts, US EPA). In addition to heating up quickly, this cement and asphalt does a poor job of mimicking natural watershed processes. When it rains, stormwater splashes off of cement and other hard surfaces, causing it to flow over neighborhoods, picking up trash and pollutants as it goes. This water then makes its way into gutters which discharge (or flow out to) water bodies like the LA River and eventually, the Pacific Ocean. This traditional, single-purpose, “grey” infrastructure exacerbates neighborhood flooding and worsens water quality which impacts community and environmental health.

 

In contrast to traditional infrastructure, green infrastructure mimics the slow, spread, and sink functions of a natural watershed and has multiple benefits including: improved community wellness, increased local water resources, and additional habitat to support ecological resilience. (Check out a previous blog post ‘Create your Own Green Infrastructure’ to learn more about green infrastructure). With green infrastructure, sustainable landscapes and localized resiliency projects, homes, public spaces and commercial properties can be designed to:

 

  • Capture and make use of stormwater

  • Decrease runoff and flooding

  • Reduce water demands for landscaping

  • Combat dangerous urban heat

  • Encourage clean, active transportation

  • Protect pedestrians and cyclists

  • Increase green spaces for wildlife to thrive and residents to enjoy

  • Improve environmental quality through filtered water and air

 

Further, examples of climate-resilient communities can inspire similar projects, act as models for other communities, provide educational opportunities for children and adults, increase community participation with local community-based organizations and decision makers, increase connectivity with one another and empower people to take ownership of their neighborhoods and watershed. As you will see, enhancing the physical environment also enhances the quality of life for people living in them. Looking forward, climate-resilient communities have the power to sustain lasting health and happiness among individuals and families alike.

 

How do you think communities can be reimagined for better climate resiliency? Keep reading to explore the topics listed here. When you’re finished reading, feel free to share your thoughts, visions and ideas with us in the comments section below!

 

Homes and neighborhoods

Streets

Parks and schools

Community gardens

Community health

Landscape Resiliency Resources

Homes & neighborhoods

In the City of LA, 60% of developed land area is single-family residential homes and 35% of runoff comes from residential streets (WaterLA Report 2018). Hence, there is potential for neighborhood-scale projects to significantly enhance the health and resiliency of the watershed. Use this infographic to learn how you can make your home and neighborhood greener, healthier, and more climate-resilient: