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A contractor installs an in-home cooling unit

CCRE/UCCS: Protecting Calif. Homes from Extreme Heat


Professor V. Kelly Turner, Assistant Professor of Urban Planning and Geography, UCLA Co-Director of the Luskin Center for Innovation

California housing is unprepared for extreme heat today and future increases in duration and intensity expected under climate change. This presentation recommends the following interconnected actions to protect Californians where they live:

1. Update habitability standards and residential building codes for a hotter future

2. Bolster funding for the installation and use of home cooling strategies

3. Address policy and programming gaps to protect the most heat-vulnerable populations Professor Turner’s research addresses the relationship between institutions, urban design, and the environment. Dr. Turner’s work on water resources has investigated the co-benefits of heat mitigation and water conservation through sustainable design. More recently, Professor Turner is investigating the role of policy, planning, and social norms in driving adoption of green versus grey storm-water control measures in several U.S. cities and the cumulative effects on watershed hydrology through a collaborative study.

Dr. Turner discussed policy changes needed to address habitability, such as updating civil and health and safety codes to provide not just a minimum temperature for habitability, but also a maximum one, as Palm Springs, Phoenix and the state of Nevada have done. She suggested amending codes to require landlords to provide tenants with cooling installations, as Portland, Oregon did last summer during an extreme heatwave.

Currently home retrofit and low-income weatherization programs allow for replacing old AC units, but they do not fund adding cooling systems not already in place. This is a major gap in the program. Expanding those programs to cover the addition of cooling roofs, shade structures and heat pumps would benefit the state.

Finally, revising electricity rate structures to better help low-income ratepayers afford to use AC and heat pumps would go a long way toward reducing personal heating inequities across the state.

Dr. Turner received a Ph.D. in geography from the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning at Arizona State University. Professor Turner’s work is funded by the National Science Foundation and the interdisciplinary National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center. Dr. Turner recently chaired the Human Dimensions of Global Change specialty group of the American Association of Geographers.


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