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Open AccessArticle

Urban Heat Stress Vulnerability in the U.S. Southwest: The Role of Sociotechnical Systems

Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, University of California, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA
Civil, Environmental, and Sustainable Engineering, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85287, USA
Center for Public Health and Disasters, UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, Los Angeles, CA 90024, USA
David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: Patricia Romero-Lankao, Olga Wilhelmi and Mary Hayden
Sustainability 2016, 8(9), 842;
Received: 18 May 2016 / Revised: 6 August 2016 / Accepted: 17 August 2016 / Published: 25 August 2016
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Urban Resilience and Urban Sustainability: From Research to Practice)
Heat vulnerability of urban populations is becoming a major issue of concern with climate change, particularly in the cities of the Southwest United States. In this article we discuss the importance of understanding coupled social and technical systems, how they constitute one another, and how they form the conditions and circumstances in which people experience heat. We discuss the particular situation of Los Angeles and Maricopa Counties, their urban form and the electric grid. We show how vulnerable populations are created by virtue of the age and construction of buildings, the morphology of roads and distribution of buildings on the landscape. Further, the regulatory infrastructure of electricity generation and distribution also contributes to creating differential vulnerability. We contribute to a better understanding of the importance of sociotechnical systems. Social infrastructure includes codes, conventions, rules and regulations; technical systems are the hard systems of pipes, wires, buildings, roads, and power plants. These interact to create lock-in that is an obstacle to addressing issues such as urban heat stress in a novel and equitable manner. View Full-Text
Keywords: urban heat; vulnerability; socio-technical systems urban heat; vulnerability; socio-technical systems
MDPI and ACS Style

Pincetl, S.; Chester, M.; Eisenman, D. Urban Heat Stress Vulnerability in the U.S. Southwest: The Role of Sociotechnical Systems. Sustainability 2016, 8, 842.

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