The Maricopa County Industrial Development Authority (IDA) approved a grant to the ASU Foundation for a New American University for research to help reduce urban heat and improve air quality. The $2.99 million grant is for three years and will help get the Healthy Urban Environments (HUE) Initiative at Arizona State University off the ground.
“As regional leaders, our job is to improve quality of life and that is what this partnership will do,” said Steve Chucri, District 2, Chairman of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors. “The fact is, our weather is reaching new extremes, making ozone a bigger problem. This summer, we had more than 40 straight days of ozone alerts. This can’t be the new normal. As Chairman, I committed us to the hard work involved in building a smart, sustainable future. I am hopeful that other governments and community partners will follow our lead in supporting this important work.”
The HUE initiative takes a solutions-based approach to heat mitigation and air quality improvement, capitalizing on ASU’s Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability, its School of Sustainability and its partners around the world, to address the unique challenges facing a county that is comparable in size and scale to some countries.
“ASU is committed to conducting use-inspired research that has meaningful value to the community we serve,” said ASU President Michael Crow. “This initiative is a great example of how ASU can work with the county to make an impact on a very real threat to the Valley: that of increasing heat and associated air quality issues.”
Data from ASU shows, over the past 90 years, temperatures are rising faster in the urban core of Maricopa County than on its outer edges. It is most noticeable at night. While average daytime high temperatures in Phoenix have increased 4 degrees Fahrenheit in that time, the average nighttime low temperatures have increased 17 degrees. Compare that to measurements at Casa Grande National Monument, where average high temperatures have stayed flat and average lows are up just 6 degrees.
"Keeping heat and air pollution from increasing in a fast-growing urban region like Maricopa County is an enormous challenge that must be met in order to maintain our quality of life and our economic vitality,” said Charles Redman, the founding director of the School of Sustainability and co-director of the HUE Initiative. “We seek to partner ASU’s tremendous innovation infrastructure with forward-thinking Maricopa County to develop new technologies, accelerate the transition from the lab to field testing, and partner with stakeholders to get solutions deployed in local communities.”
Redman, who will co-direct the HUE Initiative with Matthew Fraser, a professor in ASU’s School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, added that initial duties of HUE include launching a research, solutions and innovation Incubator; implementing and evaluating new insights in a real-world context; performing public, workforce and management education; and serving as a nexus for stakeholders seeking solutions to urban heat and air quality.
“The Healthy Urban Environments Initiative isn’t about theory and it’s not only about the weather; this initiative is about providing practical tools that will ensure Maricopa County continues to be one of the nation’s fastest-growing regions with a strong, diverse economy where our kids and grandkids can thrive,” said Maricopa County IDA President Jeremey Stawiecki. “The Maricopa County IDA is proud to partner with ASU in service of this worthy goal.”