Enhancing Climate Preparedness through Geodesign of Urban Green Space

Title: Enhancing Climate Preparedness through Geodesign of Urban Green Space

Investigators: Dr. Scott Sheridan (College of Arts and Sciences) and Theresa Schwarz (College of Architecture and Environmental Design)

In the 21st century, a majority of the world’s population resides in cities and the environmental implications of urban habitats is a central challenge for the long-term sustainability of the planet (Wiggington et al. 2016, Set et al. 2017). Urban planners and architects have suggested approaches for addressing urban environmental challenges through design interventions that mitigate environmental degradation while improving human well-being and quality of life (Jabareen 2006, Farr 2008). Aided by high resolution satellite imagery, environmental scientists have systematically explored linkages between landscape structure, composition and ecosystem service delivery by extending geospatial methods and remote sensing analysis to fine scale urban environments (Wentz et al. 2011). Increasingly, bridges between design fields and geosciences are being forged through “geodesign” an integrative methodology through which GIScience and design are mutually constituted to enhance sustainability (Goodchild 2010). The long-range goal of this project is to establish Kent State University as the leader in geodesign and community-based scholarship nationally by activating latent connections across existing research and teaching strengths, university initiatives and non-university partnerships.

In this study we particularly focus on four Cleveland, Ohio, neighborhoods (Slavic Village, Glenville, Kinsman, Detroit Shoreway) in terms of climate regulation and the role of green space, where CoPI Schwarz supports this focus by establishing relationships with community partners through work funded by the Kresgie Foundation. Using these areas as field sites, we will, analyze, implement, and generate geodesign-based ideas, data and decisions. Although Cleveland benefits from a temperate climate and access to fresh water, climate change is anticipated to create conditions that put environmental and human health at risk (Sheridan 2003, Pats 2005, GLISA 2012, Saha et al. 2014). Like cities everywhere, Cleveland experiences the Urban Heat Island (UHI) phenomena of elevated temperatures compared to the rural hinterlands (Oke 1981, 1982, Brazel et al 2000, 2007). The city's high percentage of impervious land cover and sparse tree canopy exacerbate these conditions (Sheridan 2003), but also create opportunities for urban climate adaptation. In temperate regions like Northeast Ohio where water is readily available, vegetated landscapes play an important role in lowering land surface temperature and providing thermal comfort to residents (Declet-Barreto et al. 2016). The aim of this study is to improve the uptake of science-informed development by quantifying relationships between urban form and climate regulation in urban neighborhoods using local and remote sensing methods and by integrating community partners and stakeholders into the science production process. 

Integration of scientific and design modes of inquiry in this study is achieved through a geodesign framework: an approach for environmental planning informed by science and aided by geospatial technologies to enhance the ability to achieve normative goals (Goodchild 2010). Geodesign has roots in landscape architecture (e.g., McHarg 1969) and brings together geospatial scientists, environmental scientists, and urban planning and design scholars and practitioners, among others. That being said, we will regularly solicit feedback from Cleveland Neighborhood Progress and engage Climate Ambassadors (residents of the four neighborhoods trained to conduct community outreach on climate change) in local thermal comfort data collection, leveraging PI Schwarz' existing collaborative activities funded through the Kresgie Foundation. We will facilitate a discussion with City officials geared toward incorporating microclimate adaptation into the City Climate Action Plan and to solicit stakeholder research needs.

The institutional enhancement objectives of this project are to enhance our collective ability to secure extramural funding by collecting, enhancing, and building strong data, research, and partnerships.