American desert cities designed and built at the turn of the century in conjunction with the advent of air-conditioning technologies are able to house millions of Americans by relying primarily on fossil-fuel to supply relief from extreme hot weather. The Phoenix metro area, or The Valley of The Sun as it is known to locals, experienced 145 days reaching temperatures over 100˚F in 2020 according to the National Weather Service. The increased probability of a longer-lasting heatwave, combined with the over demand of electrical power supply during extreme weather events can be catastrophic, especially to the most vulnerable communities. This phenomenon, as evidenced by the ERCOT blackout that caused millions of individuals to go without energy supply during an extreme winter storm in Texas has made more tangible the risk that extreme weather events pose to a limited electrical supply.
Today, municipal government, local communities, and grassroots organizations, coupled with environmental researchers in the Phoenix metro area have taken note of the risks that heat poses to human livelihoods and are working to develop cooling centers as a strategy to deal with heat insecurity, especially in the most vulnerable communities. As the climate crisis brings more extreme temperatures to The Valley in combination with the need to reduce fossil-fuel reliance and the use of scarce water resources, “Collective Comfort” aims to develop a public program that rethinks the cooling center as an educational resilience hub. Furthermore, “Collective Comfort” aims to bring education on heat risk and weatherization efforts to the forefront, helping to destabilize the fossil-fuel reliant single-family home by providing alternative visions that foreground collectivity and community resilience in desert cities.
To address equitable cooling in relationship with an overreliance on private mechanical, electrically powered air-conditioning technologies, we propose to support interdisciplinary existing efforts by developing design principles and strategies that inform the cooling center as a resiliency and climate education hub. This year-long interdisciplinary endeavor proposes a research seminar (fall 2023) followed by an advanced collaborative architecture studio (spring 2024) that brings interdisciplinary partners from resiliency planning, engineering, and architecture in combination with community stakeholders to collaborate with graduate students in the development of “Collective Comfort” at the Yale School of Architecture. This research opportunity enables us to build academic, community, and design relationships that connect Arizona State University’s unique leadership in urban-heat analysis, the innovative design strength of Yale School of Architecture’s design thinking, and University of Houston’s new Climate Adaptation and Sustainable Communities Lab.