City of Surrey develops project to be heat ready

Project nearing final stages to help the city and local communities adapt to warmer weather

Art by Kristen Frier

Art by Kristen Frier

With the heat closely approaching and temperatures increasing, Surrey is looking for ways to stay cool during the summer. 

As temperatures rise, the City of Surrey set up the Urban Heat Ready project. Launched in early 2020, the project supports Surrey’s Climate Adaptation Strategy to minimize the impacts of the urban heat island effect (UHI). UHI is described by the City of Surrey as a phenomenon when outdoor air temperature that surrounds an urban area is hotter than that of surrounding rural areas. 

Lise Townsend is the Climate Program Lead for the City of Surrey, and says the Urban Heat Ready project is currently in phase three. 

In April, the University of Waterloo’s Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation released a report titled Irreversible Extreme Heat: protecting Canadians and communities from a lethal future on how extreme heat in Canada can cause devastating effects on people and the environment. The report also included the 526 heat-related deaths as a result of extreme heat in British Columbia from June 25 to July 1 last year. 

Joanna Eyquem, the lead author of the report, says she and her team looked into three different indicators of extreme heat: the number of days over 30 degrees, the hottest temperatures they can expect in the year, and the light length of heat waves. 

Eyquem says there are specific parts in the country that experience extreme heat. 

“There’s the valleys of B.C., this is the southern prairies and then around the Great Lakes down the St. Lawrence River to Montreal, but within there it’s the urban areas that are particularly vulnerable to extreme heat, because artificial surfaces heat up and retain the heat and then give it out and basically maintain hot temperature,” she says. 

Townsend says there are two factors causing this urban heat island effect. 

“The removal of green [spaces], and then replacing it with hard infrastructure that doesn’t provide any cooling,” she says. 

The report’s key aim is to present all action to how we can avoid extreme heat impacts, says Eyquem. 

“[In the report], we have 35 actions that individuals, property owners, managers, and communities can take. So that includes kind of changing our behavior, particularly checking on and supporting people we know are vulnerable to extreme heat,” Eyquem says. 

Townsend hopes to work with the community and include a steering committee that includes a number of community organizations representing major vulnerable populations. 

“We’re trying to understand what are the community’s needs? What are some of the issues that they’re facing? …And [what are] the best ways and things that we can do in the short and long term, and how to collaborate and build relationships with the community,” Townsend says. 

Seeing what specific actions they could collaboratively work on with the community is also something Townsend says is looking forward to, especially when it comes to supporting community members for responding to the heat in the future.

At the moment, there isn’t a specific timeline for when the project will be completed, but Townsend says the project is expected to be done by the end of this year.