The Urban Heat Island effect isn’t unique to Chicago, but we’re certainly has a devastating effect in the summer, despite our lake shore. Hot, humid air traps smog, and so the air in the summer time registers as being far more polluted, while dark, paved surfaces absorb heat. Waste heat is also generated from increased energy consumption during the hottest months of the year, as AC demand skyrockets. According to a 2014 EPA publication, these “heat islands can affect communities by increasing summertime peak energy demand, air conditioning costs, air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, heat-related illness and mortality, and water quality” (Reducing Urban Heat Islands 2014). All of these effects have significant implications for a public’s health.
One interesting solution is the establishment and increase of roof-top gardens. They have been proven to reduce UHI effects by cleaning the air, absorbing sunlight without raising air temperature, and even purifying rain water. At the same time, they help reduce a building’s energy costs by reflecting sunlight, lowering the need for AC energy and further improving the atmosphere. A general increase in vegetative cover will have a similar effect. Many communities also use lighter pavement and reflective roofs to keep their city cool. According to the Sustainable Energy Planning handbook, many of these sustainable solutions save a city money in the long-run by improving the quality of life it offers its residents (11). All of these solutions would help Chicago with our notorious summer heat!
“Reducing Urban Heat Islands: Compendium of Strategies. Heat Island Effect. US EPA.” EPA. Environmental Protection Agency, Web. 16 Apr. 2014.
“Sustainable Energy Planning.” UN Habitat (2004): n. pag. Local Governments for Sustainability, 2004. Web.