The growing threat of heat disasters

David J. Sailor, Amir Baniassadi, Cassandra R. O'Lenick, Olga V. Wilhelmi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Heat is the number one weather-related killer in the United States and indoor exposure is responsible for a significant portion of the resulting fatalities. Evolving construction practices combined with urban development in harsh climates has led building occupants in many cities to rely on air conditioning (AC) to a degree that their health and well-being are compromised in its absence. The risks are substantial if loss of AC coincides with a hot weather episode (henceforth, a heat disaster). Using simulations, we found that residential buildings in many US cities are highly vulnerable to heat disasters - with more than 50 million citizens living in cities at significant risk. This situation will be exacerbated by intensification of urban heat islands, climate change, and evolving construction practices. It is therefore crucial that future building codes consider thermal resiliency in addition to energy efficiency.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number054006
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2019


  • heat waves
  • indoor thermal comfort
  • overheating
  • power outage
  • resiliency

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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