Cities are hot. When you cover the ground with asphalt and concrete, jam millions of cars together on congested streets, and erect thousands of buildings that leak their own heat, you create what experts call an “urban heat island.” Daytime temperatures in these places can be as much as 7 degrees Fahrenheit higher than surrounding rural areas, and things don’t get much cooler at night.

As climate change fuels a succession of historic heat waves, the urban heat island effect in many American cities is pushing the limits of human survivability. That’s the case in desert cities like Phoenix, where temperatures crested 110 degrees F for 30 straight days this summer, and also in cooler climes like Chicago, which has seen a series of scalding triple-digit weeks over the past few months.

Dealing with this type of heat requires more than isolated interventions — reflective roofs here or mist machines there. Rather, the crisis of the past summer has shown that most American urban centers will need to consider a revamp from the ground up.

Drawing on feedback from climate experts, architects, and urban planners, as well as successful technologies pioneered by warm-weather communities around the world, Grist set out to design a city built from scratch to handle extreme heat, all while reducing carbon emissions. The buildings and streets in this cool metropolis incorporate basic design principles such as shade and foliage, but they also include bespoke architectural solutions such as wind-trapping towers and special absorbent polymers. The finished product shows how much work is needed to adapt to the extremes of climate change, but it also shows how much more humane and people-oriented our cities can be.

Read the full article about heat resilience by Jake Bittle and Naveena Sadasivam at Grist.