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Transforming Phoenix into an 'urban forest' to combat extreme heat

The State Press | October 15, 2020

two people dig holes to plant trees in city parkA State Press article detailed how the Healthy Urban Environments Initiative partners are working with Phoenix city officials to reduce temperatures across the Valley after a record-breaking summer.

Reducing temperatures for low-income communities and other efforts to make Phoenix a "HeatReady" city were among the topics discussed at the latest Urban Heat Island/Tree and Shade subcommittee meeting. "The closing of cooling areas was a move that largely affects the most vulnerable people who can't afford air conditioning, according to Charles Redman, a professor at the School of Human Evolution and Social Change, who said that heat is a 'real public threat.'"

Read more in the article, "Transforming Phoenix into an 'urban forest' to combat extreme heat."

Cool pavement pilot study

September 4, 2020

Woman on ASU Tempe campus operating weather robotThe City of Phoenix Street Transportation Department recently initiated the Cool Pavement Pilot Program. With this project, the city plans to apply the product CoolSeal by GuardTop®, which is a water-based asphalt emulsion seal coat designed to achieve lower pavement surface temperatures through its lighter color and reflectivity.

A joint study between Arizona State University researchers — led by Ariane Middel and Jenni Vanos — and the City of Phoenix, and sponsored by the Healthy Urban Environments Initiative, will quantify and evaluate the effectiveness of the CoolSeal product in mitigating urban heat considering various heat metrics (air temperature, surface temperature and radiant temperature). This one-year project will also assess the product performance and life cycle.

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AZ Heat Preparedness and Resilience Workgroup

August 21, 2020

Downtown Phoenix skyline with yellow skyThis Workgroup was created in the summer of 2020 to share heat forecasts and warnings with communities; highlight approaches to heat relief, communications strategies and resources; identify opportunities and gaps in heat-related research; and connect cities and counties to regional and state resources and information. Read more on the Workgroup's webpage.


Healthy Urban Environments (HUE)

Knowledge Exchange for Resilience (KER)

Sustainable Cities Network (SCN)


  • Melissa Guardaro, Assistant Research Professor, ASU Julie Ann Wrigley Institute of Sustainability; Healthy Urban Environments (HUE) & Knowledge Exchange for Resilience (KER)
  • Liza Kurtz, ASU PhD Student, Global Health
  • Anne Reichman, Director, ASU SCN & Project Cities
  • David Hondula, Associate Professor, ASU School of Sciences and Urban Planning
  • Paul Iniguez, Science & Operations Officer, NOAA/National Weather Service Phoenix, AZ
  • Braden Kay, Sustainability Director, City of Tempe

graph of heat related deaths in Arizona
Source: Arizona Department of Health Services

Event Sept. 3: Killer Heat in COVID Times

August 14, 2020

paris-climate-agreement-asuLast month, Phoenix broke its record for the most days at 110-plus degrees, while being the world's hotspot for coronavirus. This case critical discussion brings together ASU, the City of Phoenix, as well as a local nonprofit and a national NGO, to discuss the compounding crises of extreme heat and COVID-19.

Sustainability scientist Ariane Middel advances the field of urban climate science in her work with ASU’s HUE initiative. Juan Declet-Barreto is a contributing author of Killer Heat in the US and a blog that analyzed the compounding crises of extreme heat and COVID-19. Mark Hartman, from the City of Phoenix, is working with ASU’s HUE project to understand and mitigate extreme heat in Phoenix. Masavi Parea represents CHISPA, a community-organizing program advocating for resilience and climate justice in Phoenix.

Co-hosted by ASU's HUE (Healthy Urban Environment) initiative.

Register via Zoom

2020 HUE Recipients

July 31, 2020

city with mountains in distance and street in foregroundHealthy Urban Environments' second convening, on July 29, focused on the 2020 cohort who are just starting their projects during COVID-19. With 38 participants in attendance each team presented their progress as well as the challenges and adjustments each project had to endure.

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With the help of ASU, city of Phoenix developing solutions to cool down

The Washington Post | July 10, 2020

Phoenix skyline at sunsetDavid Hondula, a senior sustainability scientist in the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability, was interviewed by the Washington Post about the Heat Ready initiative, a project funded by Healthy Urban Environments.

“We talk about climate … as something mysterious and ambiguous that comes from the sky. But it is also something we are driving with the way we are paving our streets,” Hondula said in the article. “Urbanization is a critical part of the story.”

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HUE grantees talk heat on Vitalyst Spark podcast

Vitalyst Spark Podcast | July 6, 2020

As temperatures rise this summer in Arizona, three heat experts — including two Healthy Urban Environments grantees — talked heat in the latest Vitalyst Health Foundation podcast, Vitalyst Spark. Catch grantees David Hondula, an assistant professor at the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning, and Vjollca Berisha, a senior epidemiologist with Maricopa County Department of Public Health, on episode 35: "Heat, Health and COVID-19."

Hondula and Berisha strive to meet the needs of vulnerable populations and educate communities about available resources. In the podcast, they talk about heat and COVID-related challenges and opportunities that are shaping our lives in Maricopa County.

June 2020 HUE convening

June 30, 2020

Overcoming social distance limitations, we successfully convened our grantees this summer. The first convening, on June 17th, focused on the progress of HUE’s first cohort: the 2019 grantees. In a virtual meeting the 2019 cohort presented their projects to 26 participants. Presentations were followed by a vivid discussion including questions from the 2020 cohort as well as from the HUE team.

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Arizona Heat Awareness Week

May 28, 2020

It is the end of May and we are already feeling the impacts of the Arizona heat. Every year the triple-digit temperatures last through September and kill many residents and visitors. In 2019, a preliminary count identified 443 people who died from heat-caused and heat-related deaths in Arizona. This year — with more people staying at home due to the pandemic — the summer heat will impact low-income communities even more.

Heat-related illnesses are preventable. Many resources and programs are available to help individuals cope with the heat and the financial burden that comes with it. As part of the 2020 Arizona Heat Awareness Week, the Arizona Department of Health Services compiled multiple resources to help our communities. Please share these resources with others that can benefit from them. You can also find more resources and data online from the Arizona Department of Health Services.

COVID-19 and HUE mission statement

May 6, 2020

Phoenix skyline at sunsetIn honor of the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day, we are reaffirming our commitment to protecting and promoting the natural environment and local communities. Access to healthy environments is of primary importance, now more than ever.

The coronavirus pandemic has challenged our economic, social, and cultural systems, dramatically changed our daily lives, and created added uncertainty to future plans. At the Healthy Urban Environments Initiative (HUE), we are committed to protecting the health and safety of our community of researchers, innovators, and stakeholders. We are concerned about the impact of increasing urban heat during social distancing requirements and the greater vulnerability to COVID-19 for those in areas of poor air quality especially in the upcoming hot summer months.

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High school students from Chandler receive $50,000 grant

March 25, 2020

Arizona State University’s Healthy Urban Environments Initiative awarded an innovative team of science students from the Arizona College Prep-Erie Campus with a $50,000 grant for their work on a heat stroke prevention device. With funding, these 9th and 10th graders will build a prototype of the device to test on student athletes.

According to Rachna Nath, a science teacher for the ACP-Erie campus, she and the students have been working with Chandler Innovations on the project since August 2019. After testing the device, they will report all data collected to the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability, of which HUE is a unit.

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Healthy Urban Environments hosts Urban Heat and Air Quality Solutions Workshop

November 12, 2019

HUE Network members share ideas on how to advance urban heat and air quality solutions.
HUE Network members share ideas on how to advance urban heat and air quality solutions

On October 28, 2019 the Healthy Urban Environments (HUE) initiative held its Fall 2019 Solutions Workshop. This workshop served to formally convene the HUE Network of Concerned Parties — a diverse working group focused on collaboratively working towards advancing urban heat and air quality mitigation solutions. Going forward, the Network will support working groups engaged in planning and action around specific intervention opportunities, communicating best practices, and training future practitioners.

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Jennifer Vanos awarded 2019 Climate and Health Champion Award

November 7, 2019

Dr. Jenni Vanos leading Tempe Heat Walk researchSchool of Sustainability assistant professor Jennifer Vanos was recently awarded Maricopa County's 2019 Climate and Health Champion award in the research category for her outstanding work in understanding the hazards and health outcomes associated with children's playspaces. Her work, which is supported by the Healthy Urban Environments (HUE) initiative, evaluates how playspace design mediates exposure to heat, radiation and air pollution impacts.

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ASU and Tempe collaborate to organize Heat Walk

September 22, 2019

Tempe Heat Walk community event group photoOn September 21, Arizona State University and the City of Tempe conducted Tempe’s first Heat Walk: a community event orchestrated to help city officials and ASU researchers understand how residents experience heat in their neighborhoods, parks and multi-use paths. According to Jennifer Vanos, an assistant professor in the School of Sustainability and senior sustainability scientist the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability, “Our goal is to ensure that public spaces that are meant to be used for activity, play and active transport are thermally comfortable and safe from extreme heat for as much of the day and year as possible."

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Maricopa County and ASU combat urban heat with Healthy Urban Environments (HUE) initiative

View Source | November 14, 2018

city with mountains at sunsetThe Maricopa County Industrial Development Authority (IDA) approved a grant to the ASU Foundation for a New American University for research to help reduce urban heat and improve air quality. The $2.99 million grant is for three years and will help get the Healthy Urban Environments (HUE) Initiative at Arizona State University off the ground.

“As regional leaders, our job is to improve quality of life and that is what this partnership will do,” said Steve Chucri, District 2, Chairman of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors. “The fact is, our weather is reaching new extremes, making ozone a bigger problem. This summer, we had more than 40 straight days of ozone alerts. This can’t be the new normal. As Chairman, I committed us to the hard work involved in building a smart, sustainable future. I am hopeful that other governments and community partners will follow our lead in supporting this important work.”

The HUE initiative takes a solutions-based approach to heat mitigation and air quality improvement, capitalizing on ASU’s Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability, its School of Sustainability and its partners around the world, to address the unique challenges facing a county that is comparable in size and scale to some countries.

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