Developing an Urban Heat Resilience Plan for Bristol

Earlier this year, the University hosted award ceremonies to celebrate the positive impact created from across our University community.

After two years of online celebrations, the Making a Difference Awards returned on 10 May with in-person and a livestreamed event from our Whitworth Hall. The Awards highlighted the extensive range of social responsibility initiatives of our staff, students, alumni and external partners, and covered categories such as benefit to research; widening participation; environmental sustainability and equality, diversity and inclusion. Nearly 160 entries were submitted this year, with judges recognising 16 winners and 23 highly commended. Winners included a project addressing period poverty; an engagement initiative translating biodiversity into new music in Colombia and a model for teaching LGBT+ History to secondary school students.

The Better World Awards, the Faculty of Science and Engineering’s (FSE) social responsibility awards, took place on 22 June 2022. They celebrated staff and students who are ‘making a difference’ through projects which benefit society or the environment. The event was hosted by Dean of the Faculty, Professor Martin Schröder, and the Vice Dean for Social Responsibility, Paul Mativenga. They praised the number and variety of projects and the commitment of those involved to social responsibility. Many of the judges commented on the significant number of strong and varied entries, which made the judging process a challenge! In total 27 outstanding projects were recognised, with 13 winners, 12 highly commended and 2 special awards.

Charlotte Brown’s project ‘Developing an Urban Heat Resilience Plan for Bristol’ was an initiative that received awards in both ceremonies.

Climate change is causing more regular and extreme heatwaves. High temperatures cause increased mortality and increased heat related illnesses especially among society’s most vulnerable individuals. Many measures can be taken to reduce these impacts and increase resilience to heatwaves. However, to make these responses more efficient, specific and targeted, information on where in the city the individuals most vulnerable to heat reside is vital. Spatial vulnerability assessments or heat vulnerability indexes (HVI) can help do this. These include combining maps of vulnerability modifiers such as socio-demographics, population health, buildings characteristics and localised air temperature variation, and assigning a score of vulnerability to different areas of the city.

Charlotte’s PhD project improved the process of building HVI’s, significantly enhancing the quality of input data and developing simpler and repeatable approaches to construction. During 2021, this methodology was adopted by Bristol City council. Co-development through regular interaction with multiple local authority departments and industry practitioners via workshops, has allowed the tool to be refined to better meet the city’s specific needs. This programme has provided the city with crucial information on heat vulnerability and its causes.

The tool provided over 200 HVI maps used regularly by Council staff in the development of their resilience framework and informing related policy change. The resilience framework has produced three key strategic goals: improve heatwave response to protect vulnerable people; adapt housing for future climates; and improve blue green infrastructure to cool the urban environment for the 460,000 residents. Working with the civil protection unit and the local resilience forum a local ‘summer’ extreme weather plan is being developed which will protect the city’s most vulnerable individuals. This will be one of the first of its kind in the UK. The city design and planning team are also using the tool as a key part of their baseline reports for major city developments, including a regeneration area that involves 1000 new homes and local facilities. The information provided by the tool will ensure new developments don’t increase urban temperatures or an areas vulnerability to heat.

The methods and results are also due to be shared with the Core Cities climate resilience working group, providing the 10 biggest cities in the UK with the information required to evaluate and improve their own resilience frameworks.