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Urban Heat Prompt

Welcome to the Wilkes Center Climate Solutions Hackathon! We are thrilled that you are joining us to work on innovative solutions that address the urban heat crisis occurring across the globe. Below you will find a description of what you need to accomplish over the next 24 hours.

Pick one of these five themes to center your solution:

Welcome to the Wilkes Center Climate Solutions Hackathon! We are thrilled that you are joining us to work on innovative solutions that address the urban heat crisis occurring across the globe. Below you will find a description of what you need to accomplish over the next 24 hours.

Heat and Public Health: 

    • Between 1979 and 2003, extreme heat caused more deaths in the United States than hurricanes, lightning, tornadoes, floods, and earthquakes combined. This threat will grow as temperatures rise. In the United States today, there are an average of 700 heat-related deaths per year, but if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise at the current pace, that number is predicted to skyrocket to between 3,000 and 5,000 deaths annually by 2050. 
    • For a variety of reasons, low-income individuals and the elderly are more susceptible to heat-related illnesses, and they may also suffer more from the effects of the urban heat island, such as poor air quality. These residents may also have less access to air conditioning or spend a higher percentage of their income on energy costs. Successful projects in this area will focus on solutions to the effects heat islands have on vulnerable populations and then apply the heat-reducing methods to these high-need areas. 

Cooling Strategies

    • Cities are getting hotter as a result of growing urbanization and global climate change. The negative impacts of temperature increases are significant and touch nearly every aspect of urban life. Protecting populations from extreme heat is one of the key resiliency and sustainability challenges of the twenty- first century. Successfully implementing measures to cool cities will lead to many benefits, including for health, well-being, productivity, air quality, and energy systems. Urban cooling solutions can be deployed in the short term to help mitigate the risk of rising urban air temperatures. Successful projects in this area will develop innovations that reduce Urban Heat. They may also provide practical, actionable guidance and examples for implementers, policy makers, and planners tasked with mitigating urban heat impacts.

Building Design for Heat Resiliency:

    • Many parts of the construction process could benefit from greater efficiency, including the types of materials used, the methods of construction, and the addressing of material waste. Building and construction account for almost 40% of global energy-related carbon emissions (30% from building operations and 11% from carbon released during construction). Promising submissions for this category will address key opportunities for the industry to improve its use and adoption of better materials, technologies, and/or processes in building structures in urban environments. They may also address key policies and incentive programs that can be used by local governments and decision makers. Successful innovations will indirectly cool individuals by decreasing temperatures of buildings and thus reducing the urban heat island.

Sheltering & Community Engagement

    • Many local governments such as Philadelphia, Milwaukee, and Phoenix have developed effective heat emergency response plans. These plans are a critical tool in the public health response to heat waves, especially within heat islands, and will save lives. However, emergency response alone will not save all of a community’s most vulnerable residents. It also will not help residents when summer is merely hot and not at declared emergency levels. Last, emergency response fails to address other aspects of urban heat, including energy disruptions, air pollution, and economic costs of cooling residents. Successful projects in this area may include emergency response systems and preparedness plans, shelter areas, connections between science & community education and engagement, local resilience planning,  

Urban Design & Green Spaces:

    • As urban areas develop, trees and vegetation are often removed to make way for buildings and streets. Removing vegetation exacerbates the effects of an urban heat island, including heat-related illnesses, energy use, and pollution. These negative effects will worsen as temperatures increase due to climate change. Successful projects in this area will use nature based processes to reduce heat and will address the challenges of developing and maintaining urban green spaces. Successful projects may also address how policy tools and/or incentive programs can be implemented by local governments and decision makers. 

Come up with something that no one has seen before. You might have a design idea, a financing idea, a start-up idea, technology application, or a policy idea that will make a difference in one of our five competition categories.

Your final deliverable will be a slide deck with an overview of your idea to be uploaded tomorrow, January 28th at noon. Please also make sure your work includes the following information:

A clearly defined geographical area where your solution might be implemented. This might be a neighborhood, city, state, or country. While many great ideas start small, judges will prioritize solutions with high potential to scale to other areas.

Take into consideration at least TWO or more of the following in your solution;

    • Impact of the solution on air pollution, energy grid and/or energy costs
    • Economic/Financial impacts of the solution
    • Common challenges for vulnerable communities and how they can be overcome
    • Specific policies that would need to be amended or implemented to ensure success

We have intentionally kept this prompt broad in scope to encourage you to be creative and to think outside of the box. For additional information about the competition and to ask questions, please visit to our Slack Channel 

Event Schedule

Friday, January 27

12:00-1:00pm - Check-in, Team Assignments & Lunch (CSC 206)

1:00pm-6:00pm - Group Work, Faculty Feedback and Guidance

6:00pm-7:00pm - Dinner (CSC 206)

7:00pm-10:00pm - Group Work

10:00pm - Building Closes (You don't have to go home but you can't stay here!)

10:00pm - 12:00am - Remote Group Work

Saturday January 28

12:00am-12:00pm - Remote Group Work

12:00pm - Pitch Deck Submitted Here


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