Thermally resilient communities: creating a socio-technical collaborative response to extreme temperatures

Zoé Hamstead, Paul Coseo, Saud Alkhaled, Emmanuel Frimpong Boamah, David M. Hondula, Ariane Middel, Nicholas Rajkovich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Extreme temperatures claim more lives than any other weather-related event, posing escalating socio-technical and governance challenges that few urban communities have addressed in a systematic, coordinated and comprehensive way. Scholars have only recently begun to investigate the granular scales at which distributions of thermal risk are produced, people’s individual subjective thermal experiences and environmental justice dimensions of the hazard. Advances in research pave the way for concomitant improvements in management and policies, but bridges are needed to connect the thermal vulnerability knowledge base with place-based protective practices that are climatically, politically and culturally appropriate. The research presented in this paper uses actor–network theory (ANT) to describe the planning phase framework of a socio-technical collaborative for managing thermal extremes. The Thermally Resilient Communities Collaborative (TRCC) is a framework for planning and test-bed design phases of a thermal management system. Drawing lessons from two case studies, the framework examines how socio-cognitive spaces for collaboration change with technical and policy disruptions, and provides a way to design experiments that test how technical and governance interventions can enable collective action around urban thermal management. Practice relevance Thermal extremes claim more lives than all other weather events and pose an escalating socio-technical challenge. Often the problem is exacerbated by lack of clarity about organizational responsibilities and coordination between local governmental departments or agencies. The TRCC framework can be used to understand current practices, identify data gaps and create opportunities to engage in cross-sectoral management. This approach engages actors in identifying built environments and societal practices that create hazardous indoor and outdoor thermal conditions, develops effective ways to convey microclimate information and peoples’ subjective thermal experiences to responders and prevention planners, and elevates experiences of marginalized communities. The TRCC describes how governance networks are harnessed to solve collective action problems by integrating new data, technology, and governance capacities. Two case studies indicate how this process was used to create capacities to protect vulnerable people from the impacts of extreme temperatures in two US cities: Tempe, Arizona, and Buffalo, New York.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)218-232
Number of pages15
JournalBuildings and Cities
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2020


  • cities
  • climate justice
  • cold vulnerability
  • collaborative governance
  • equity
  • hazard planning
  • heat vulnerability
  • public health
  • resilience
  • thermal conditions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Building and Construction
  • Architecture
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Urban Studies
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)


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