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An effective public health program to reduce urban heat islands in Quebec, Canada/Programa eficaz de salud publica para reducir las islas de calor urbano en Quebec, Canada.

For over a decade, studies have shown urban green spaces to be beneficial to human health (1, 2). Green spaces have been associated with improved air quality (oxygen production, dust/ozone reduction, etc.), increased physical activity, and decreased stress, leading to better physical and mental health among residents (3-7). In Japan, the availability of green space has been shown to promote walking among the elderly, with beneficial impacts on both their health and longevity (1). Some other studies have also reported that the beneficial effects on mortality seem even greater for disadvantaged populations (8).

Urban heat reduction is also one of the proven advantages of green spaces. In a typical city in North America, close to 80% of the surface area is built or paved, which contributes to the creation of intra-urban heat islands (9). The term "urban heat islands" (UHI) refers to the observed temperature difference between urban environments and the surrounding rural areas at the macro scale; "intraurban heat islands" refer to similar differences within a city. Observations have shown that the temperatures of urban centers can be up to 12[degrees]C higher than surrounding urban areas (10). This situation can produce significant adverse effects on human health during heat waves, when significant excess mortality has been noted in hotter zones (11). Urban green spaces, however, can reduce air temperature by 4[degrees]C - 8[degrees]C. This cooling effect can even extend several hundred meters to neighboring areas and reduce the perception of thermal discomfort during heat waves (12, 13).

For 10-15 years now, many organizations and researchers have proposed enhanced greening of cities. Some have recommended that city land use and development plans focus more keenly on maintaining and increasing green spaces (1). For instance, in New York City, recommendations for UHI mitigation measures are being implemented, tailored to the circumstances of each of the different boroughs and at levels expected to produce a real beneficial effect (14).

Recent studies have also measured the effects of greening on temperatures in urban areas. In northwest England, a modelling exercise demonstrated that even in suburban areas in temperate cities, a 5% increase in mature deciduous trees can reduce mean hourly surface temperatures by 1[degrees]C over the course of a summer's day (15). In Melbourne, Australia, a simulation suggested that average seasonal summer temperatures can be reduced by about 0.5[degrees]C - 2[degrees]C if the city were replaced by vegetated suburbs and parklands, respectively (16). A study conducted in several American cities used separate health impact functions for projected, average warm season and heat wave conditions in 2050, and found that combinations of vegetation and albedo enhancement could offset projected increases in heat-related mortality by 40%-99% across metropolitan areas (17). Albedo is known as the fraction of incident solar energy reflected by a surface (18). A high albedo means that the surface reflects a large amount of solar radiation, and less energy is, thus, absorbed by the surface materials.

Since climate change will bring a supplementary burden of heat exposure to cities everywhere, it is important to assess, as precisely as possible, which measures truly reduce urban heat island effects, with minimal negative impact. The present study details how the province of Quebec, Canada, implemented such measures in a humid temperate climate over 7 years using a science-based public health approach. The process included four major blocks, namely: a review of existing science; several pilot projects; several evaluations (on effectiveness, impact on quality of life, and a preliminary life cycle analysis of negative environmental impacts); and a major effort to disseminate information and results.


Under the health component of Quebec's 2006-2012 Climate Change Action Plan, the Institut national de sante publique du Quebec (National Public Health Institute of Quebec; INSPQ) received a mandate from its Ministry of Health and Social Services to support projects that decrease the impact of climate change on the health of vulnerable populations. One of the major issues addressed by the INSPQ was the question of fighting UHIs as a climate change adaptation measure.

First, a systematic literature review was prepared on the impacts of UHI (not presented here) and effectiveness of UHI mitigation measures, namely greening measures, urban infrastructure-related measures (architecture and land use planning), storm water management and soil permeability measures, and anthropogenic heat reduction measures (19). The literature review indicated that a range of options is available for heat reduction and cooling in urban areas, as shown in Table 1.

In addition, the review clearly demonstrated the benefits of applying several mitigation measures at the same time. In fact, when these measures are used concurrently, an additive effect is observed in terms of cooling both buildings and cities, which helps protect the population from the negative health impacts of UHIs. This review constituted the basis of further INSPQ actions on the topic.

Although the review did not claim to replace the recommendations of experts in the field, various suggestions for the southern sub-area of Quebec province were derived from it. These suggestions guided program implementation and addressed specific questions regarding greening of the cities. One of the main orientations was, as a public health principle, to give priority to applying UHI mitigation strategies in the areas where populations most vulnerable to the heat live. It was also proposed to encourage small- and large-scale greening initiatives, as well as the protection of wooded areas, in order to optimize plant growth and extend plant life.


The literature review constituted a reference document for implementation of local pilot projects on UHI mitigation. Three calls for proposals were made. In this context, more than 40 projects were funded and realized in different geographic areas of the province of Quebec. The projects were required to specifically target the implementation of a measure or group of measures favoring the creation of cooling in urban spaces. These measures generally included densification of the vegetation and the improvement/creation of pedestrian streets, parking lots, playgrounds, schools yards, public child care centers, and public places and buildings frequented by vulnerable populations (e.g., housing cooperatives, senior centers). The proposals were submitted to independent review by external experts, with decisions made on the basis of predetermined criteria included in the call for proposals.

Every project had to be finalized by December 2012. Based on project implementation and the required reports submitted by each project leader, the following UHI mitigation efforts were completed: 17 school yards were greened (Figure 1); seven green alleys were created; two white roofs were installed; eight cool places were created; 10 parking lots were greened; four green roofs (Figure 2) covering over 600 [m.sup.2] were planted; and 11 projects involving urban agriculture were realized (Figure 3). In all, over 3 000 trees and 26 000 bushes, vines, annuals, and perennials were planted. More than 40 000 [m.sup.2] of asphalt pavement was removed and nearly 65 000 [m.sup.2] of white roofing was installed. Funding totaled about C$ 15 million (in 2010, US$ 1 = C$ 1), and matching was required to qualify, either in-kind or financially; the total value of projects including matching was estimated at C$ 45 million.


Temperature assessment

After some of the pilot projects were completed in Montreal, Environment Canada (the ministry of the environment; Ottawa, Ontario) conducted a study to validate the performance of the various UHI reduction measures (20). Environment Canada used several techniques, including high-resolution modeling, satellite thermal imaging, and an on-site meteorological measurement campaign to assess the environmental benefits of any cooling gains

The characterization of the UHIs has confirmed that daytime temperatures, whether in rural or urban areas, are relatively similar, while night temperatures vary depending on the environment, with urban areas being less susceptible to cooling than rural ones. Data from satellite and on-site measurements showed that in sunny conditions, the UHI effect is always present, even if slight, in places with little vegetation, where the ground coating is waterproof, or for surfaces with low albedo (asphalt, for instance).

The performance study of UHI pilot projects in the Montreal area showed that some of the selected projects enabled significant gains of coolness. It also appeared that the measures taken and descriptions of surfaces and materials before and after work completion are important elements for evaluating thermal response to UHI pilot projects. Also, the choice of materials and colors can have an impact on the effect of the UHI modifications in some places. In addition, changes during the course of the project can result in changes to the anticipated reduction in UHI effect.

The report compared three methods for assessing UHI project impact in terms of temperature reduction. These results can help select best practices and promote the methodologies that produced the clearest evidence. For Environment Canada, numerical modeling provided the best comparison of sites before and after redevelopment, particularly because of its high resolution and the lack of physical constraints when compared to measuring instruments. An assessment of improved coolness could also be made by comparing before and after satellite images, using normalization to allow robust comparisons (Figure 4).

The study results showed the efficiency of several interventions to reduce UHI effect (reduction of concrete/asphalt surfaces, increased vegetation, etc.), but not all interventions. The most effective and efficient measures will thus be prioritized in the future to achieve the greatest coolness gains possible. Lastly, this study led to the conclusion that the scope and size of the project must be large enough to achieve significant impacts that are measurable with the existing tools.

Quality of life assessment

Of the total, 12 pilot projects were also used to assess effects on the quality of life and the well-being of residents and users of the area (21). The evaluation examined dimensions of quality of life identified in a literature review and through consultation with leaders of the participating projects. The evaluation adopted a participatory approach: the interested parties were invited to take part in the development process, implementation, and interpretation of the results. Data sources included brief on-site interviews, online and paper questionnaires completed by users of landscaped areas, and individual or group interviews with representatives of partner organizations. Only one site was measured before any development. For other sites, measures were taken during project development or at completion.

In general, the evaluation indicated that the projects were positively appreciated by the users and other stakeholders, as detailed in Table 2. For users and potential users of the spaces, the projects produced some of the expected effects, getting high marks for attractiveness and quality of the experience, particularly with respect to the dimensions of beauty and comfort. In terms of space security for oneself and for others, positive change perceptions were also recorded. The satisfaction rate was high, indicating overall success and beneficial effect on complex and significant environmental health.

Regarding the projects' effects on extreme heat, results were more mixed. Although users of the spaces were relatively unaware of the projects' intent to reduce heat, and by extension, even less aware of the expected impact on morbidity and mortality, they attached a high level of importance to measures taken against the heat. It appears that these projects can be part of a context for community mobilization against health threats posed by UHIs; however, there is much work to be done to counter the lack of knowledge on heat's affects on human health and its connection to urban development.

The conclusion of this assessment was positive regarding the relevance and feasibility of UHI mitigation from the perspective of vulnerable people using the spaces. The site development encourages the use of the space and seems to promote positive experiences among the users; however, these factors were not directly or closely linked to the creation of coolness.

Lifecycle analysis

Finally, a lifecycle analysis (LCA) was conducted on 10 UHI mitigation measures applicable to the residential sector to evaluate the potential environmental impacts resulting from implementation and maintenance, as well as dismantling at the end of the project life cycle (22). The measures evaluated were green roof, reflective roof, green wall, planting arrangement, tree, reflective coating, permeable paving, rain garden, infiltration trench, and dry well. It is important to mention that the potential temperature reduction was not taken into consideration in this assessment of environmental impacts. This study was carried out in the framework of urban-greening pilot projects aiming to reduce UHI in the Montreal metropolitan area.

The potential environmental impacts of different UHI mitigation measures were evaluated and each measure was individually compared to a baseline situation equivalent to the status quo. Measures were then prioritized according to their potential overall environmental performance. The indicators evaluated were human health, ecosystem quality, climate change, resources, aquatic acidification, and aquatic eutrophication. Table 3 summarizes the results of this assessment.

The study did not intend to compare UHI mitigation measures. Many factors, other than the indicators retained for the study--beautification, improved air quality, creation of wildlife habitat-must also be taken into consideration and cannot be quantified on the same basis. However, an LCA can be part of the decisionmaking process leading to implementation of UHI mitigation measures. It offers an additional tool that explores the potential environmental impact of a measure "from cradle to grave." An LCA enables a more informed choice to be made from among various scenarios proposed for the same measure.

Overall, it was found that actions to maintain UHI mitigation measures, especially those that involved fertilization or the addition of a layer of reflective coating to white roofs, can have significant negative impacts. Clearly, planting vegetation always makes an environmental impact in terms of resource consumption, but all measures must be evaluated according to their main function, namely that of reducing ambient temperature during heat waves, as well as their secondary functions. The LCA of secondary functions is important for getting further clarity on prioritizing future UHI mitigation interventions. In this case, the LCA report stated that UHI mitigation measures that do not require fertilization or maintenance (i.e., roof recoating) should be preferred.


An important effort was made to disseminate results and promote mitigation of UHIs. A website called Mon climat, ma sante (My climate, my health) was developed and has been routinely updated since 2011, engaging 150 000 unique visitors annually (23). The site has two sections, one directed at the general public and one for experts. Over 40 conferences on UHIs have been hosted by the INSPQ climate change team; scores of articles have been published in local newspapers following the announcement or completion of the UHI mitigation projects; and several interviews on radio and television, both by the INSPQ climate change team and project managers, have helped boost awareness of UHI mitigation nationwide.

During the course of the pilot projects, each project leader was required to put into place a communication plan and an education program that addressed the UHI issue and educated the population on its health effects. A successful outcome, for example, was the groups of people living in low-income housing who got together to evaluate the best opportunities for reducing UHI for their buildings. In all, this program rolled out more than 1 000 communication activities in 2010-2014.


Based on the results of these pilot projects and the analyses and assessments that followed, initiatives arose for the health adaptation component of the 2013-2020 Climate Change Action Plan. For example, a project was launched on 15 October 2015 to densify vegetation in a large portion of Montreal that is crossed by highways and heavily industrialized (24). This area is also densely inhabited by vulnerable and deprived populations. The project is multifaceted and aims to green vacant fields, walls, and roofs; install white roof tops; develop ecological parking; and restore and increase landscaping favorable to biodiversity using the ecosystem-based approach of the United Nations Environment Program (25). This roster of interventions will also promote accessibility by active (e.g., bike riding, walking) and collective transportation, and brings together community stakeholders, as well as representatives from the education, municipal, and health fields, and the private sector as well. Collaboration with academic experts in urban forestry, biodiversity, and water management has also been organized by the initiative. It is hoped that the project will generate interest in similar projects that cool and green our cities, elsewhere in the province and beyond in the very near future.

This program conducted in the province of Quebec demonstrates the benefits of urban heat island mitigation measures, not only in terms of heat reduction, but also in terms of social benefits. No doubt this experience can be transposed to numerous other cities, thereby contributing to the public health for the whole Region of the Americas.

Disclaimer: Authors hold sole responsibility for the views expressed in the manuscript, which may not necessarily reflect the opinion or policy of the RPSP/ PAJPH and/or PAHO.

Conflict of interests: None declared.


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(9.) Comparot AM, Porlier A. Indicateurs de l'etat de l'environnement: Bilan pour la periode de reference 1999-2003. Premier plan strategique de developpement durable de la collectivite montrealaise. Conseil regional de l'environnement de Montreal, Ville de Montreal, Fonds d'action quebecois pour le developpement durable; 2005. Pp. 1-115.

(10.) Voogt JA. Urban heat island. In: Vol 3: Encyclopedia of global environmental change. Hoboken (United States): John Wiley & Sons: 2002. Pp. 660-6.

(11.) Smargiassi A, Goldberg MS, Plante C, Fournier M, Baudouin Y, Kosatsky T. Variation of daily warm season mortality as a function of micro-urban heat islands. J Epidemiol Community Health. 2009; 63(8): 659-64.

(12.) Dimoudi A, Nikolopoulou M. Vegetation in the urban environment: microclimatic analysis and benefits. Energy Build. 2003; 35(1):69-76.

(13.) Dentamaro I, Lafortezza R, Colangelo G, Carrus G, Sanesi G. Benefits and well-being perceived by green spaces users during heat waves. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening. 2009; 8:97-108.

(14.) Rosenzweig C, Solecki W.D, Slosberg R. Mitigating New York City's heat island with urban forestry, living roofs, and light surfaces. New York City Regional Heat Island Initiative, Final Report, 2006. New York City: New York State Energy Research and Development Authority; 2006. Pp. 1-5.

(15.) Skelhorna C, Lindley S, Levermore G. The impact of vegetation types on air and surface temperatures in a temperate city: a fine scale assessment in Manchester, UK. Landscape Urban Plan. 2014; 121:129-40.

(16.) Chen D, Wang X, Thatcher M, Barnett G, Kachenko A, Prince R. Urban vegetation for reducing heat related mortality. Environ Pollut. 2014; 192:275-84

(17.) Stone B Jr, Vargo J, Liu P, DeLucia A, Trail M, Hu Y, et al. Avoided heat-related mortality through climate adaptation strategies in three US cities. PLoS One. 2014; 9(6):e100852.

(18.) Nikolopoulou M. Designing open spaces in the urban environment: a bioclimatic approach. Center for Renewable Energy Sources. 2004:1-64. Available from: www. guidelines_en.pdf Accessed on 7 June 2016.

(19.) Giguere M. Literature review of urban heat islands mitigation strategy. Institut national de sante publique du Quebec. 2009:1-75. Available from: https://www. UrbanHeatIslandMitigationStrategies.pdf Accessed on 7 June 2016.

(20.) Levasseur ME. Etude de performance de projets de lutte aux ilots de chaleur urbains dans la region de Montreal, Synthese de l'etude d'Environnement Canada. Bulletin d'information en sante environnementale. 2014:1-11. Available from: https://www. default/files/ documents/bise/etude_projets_ilots_chaleur_ montreal.pdf Accessed on 7 June 2016.

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(24.) Conseil regional en environnement de Montreal; 2015. Available from: www. Accessed on 7 June 2016.

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Manuscript received on 29 October 2015. Revised version accepted for publication on 10 February 2016.

Melanie Beaudoin [1] and Pierre Gosselin [2]

Suggested citation Beaudoin M, Gosselin P. An effective public health program to reduce urban heat islands in Quebec, Canada. Rev Panam Salud Publica. 2016; 40(3):160-66.

[1] Institut national de sante publique du Quebec, Quebec, Canada. Send correspondence to Melanie Beaudoin, email:

[2] Universite Laval, Quebec, Canada.

Caption: FIGURE 1. Example of a schoolyard after planting vegetation and decreasing pavement, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, 2011

Caption: FIGURE 2. Example of a green roof garden in a densely populated area in Montreal, Canada, 2012

Caption: FIGURE 3. Example of urban agriculture on the roof of a convention center in downtown Montreal, Canada, 2011

Source: National Institute of Public Health of Quebec, Canada.

Caption: FIGURE 4. Aerial pictures of Habitations Jeanne-Mance (public housing), in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, 2008 (left) and after several Urban Heat Island (UHI) interventions, 2013 (right)
TABLE 1. Options for urban heat island mitigation strategies,
Montreal, Canada, 2009

Vegetation and cooling

* Urban greening strategy

* Selective planting of trees and vegetation

* Greening of parking lots

* Vegetation around buildings

* Green walls

* Green roofs

Sustainable storm water management

* Trees and green roofs

* Permeable surfaces

* Rain gardens

* Retention ponds

* Infiltration trenches (or soaking trenches)

* Dry wells

* Reservoir pavement structures

* Watering impermeable pavements with recycled water

Source: Prepared by the authors based on results presented by
Giguere (19).

Sustainable urban infrastructure

* Buildings (reflective materials, building isolation and
air-tightness, thermal inertia, windows, shading devices)

* Road infrastructure (high-albedo pavement)

* Characteristics of the built environment (access to cooling
centers, water installations, aquatic facilities, ultraviolet
protection in public areas)

Reducing anthropogenic heat

* Controlling heat production in buildings (artificial lighting and
natural light, office equipment, household appliances)

* Reducing the number of vehicles in urban areas (density centers
and reduce urban sprawl, mixed-use development, restricting motor
vehicle access, public transportation, active transport)

* Passive buildings: controlling air conditioning demand
(ventilation, solar cooling systems, geothermal heat exchangers,
radiant cooling systems)

TABLE 2. Quality of life evaluation results for some pilot projects on
mitigation of urban heat islands after work completion, Montreal area,
Quebec, Canada, 2013

            Vieux-Beloeil     Jeanne-Mance     Aumont Park,
           parking lot (a)   parking lot (a)   Brossard (a)

Beauty           1.2               1.7             1.6
Comfort          1.9               2.5             2.1
Coolness         2.6               2.1             2.4
Security         2.0               2.9             2.1

           Calixa-Lavallee      St. Clement          St. Clement
           schoolyard (a)    schoolyard (before      schoolyard
                             work started) (b)    (during work) (b)

Beauty           1.3                3.7                  1.8
Comfort          1.3                3.7                  1.8
Coolness         1.3                3.7                  1.8
Security         1.7                2.8                  2.0

Source: Prepared by the authors based on results presented by Kishchuk

(a) Average on a 5-point scale, where 1 = much more
beautiful/comfortable/cool/secure and 5 = less

(b) Average on a 5-point scale, where 1 = very
beautiful/comfortable/cool/secure and 5 = very

TABLE 3. Summary of the environmental gains and negative impacts of
urban heat island (UHI) mitigation measures compared to a baseline
scenario, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, 2011

                                                   Indicators (a)
UHI mitigation measures
                                 HH    EQ    CC    R     AA    AE

Extensive      45 years,         (4)   (2)   (1)   (2)   (1)   (2)
green roof     chemical
               as needed

               No chemical       (2)   (2)   (1)   (2)   (1)   (2)

               25 years,         (4)   (2)   (4)   (1)   (1)   (2)
               as needed

Reflective     Elastomeric       (6)   (4)   (6)   (6)   (6)   (4)
roof           membrane, 25
               years, coated
               every 5 years

               Elastomeric       (4)   (1)   (1)   (1)   (1)   (1)
               membrane, 25
               years, no

               EPDM membrane,    (1)   (1)   (1)   (2)   (2)   (1)
               40 years,
               annual washing

               EPDM membrane,    (1)   (1)   (1)   (1)   (1)   (1)
               40 years,
               annual washing

Green wall     With initial      (1)   (5)   (4)   (4)   (1)   (1)

               No chemical       (1)   (1)   (4)   (4)   (1)   (1)

Planting       With initial      (5)   (5)   (5)   (5)   (5)   (2)
arrangement    chemical

               No chemical       (4)   (1)   (5)   (5)   (5)   (1)

               With annual       (6)   (6)   (5)   (5)   (5)   (2)

Tree           With initial      (4)   (4)   (4)   (4)   (4)   (2)

               No chemical       (4)   (1)   (5)   (5)   (6)   (2)

Reflective     --                (1)   (1)   (5)   (2)   (2)   (1)

Permeable      --                (2)   (2)   (1)   (2)   (2)   (2)

Rain garden    Capture of roof   (1)   (1)   (1)   (4)   (1)   (2)
               water and

               Capture of roof   (2)   (1)   (1)   (4)   (1)   (3)
               & parking area
               water and

               Capture of roof   (6)   (6)   (1)   (4)   (1)   (2)
               water and
               annual chemical

               Capture of roof   (6)   (6)   (1)   (4)   (1)   (2)
               & parking area
               water and
               annual chemical

Infiltration   Capture of roof   (1)   (2)   (4)   (4)   (1)   (2)
trench         water

               Capture of roof   (1)   (2)   (4)   (5)   (1)   (2)
               & parking area

               Capture of roof   (1)   (2)   (4)   (4)   (1)   (2)

               Capture of roof   (1)   (3)   (4)   (4)   (1)   (3)
               & parking area


(1) = Slight gain based on indicator (0 > 50%)

(2) = Average gain based on indicator (50 > 100%)

(3) = Large gain based on indicator (100% > ...)

(4) = Slight negative impact based on indicator
(0 > -50%)

(5) = Average negative impact based on indicator
(-50 > -100%)

(6) = Large negative impact based on indicator
(-100% > ...)

(a) Human health.

(b) Ecosystem quality.

(c) Climate change.

(d) Resources.

(e) Aquatic acidification.

(f) Aquatic eutrophication.

Source: Prepared by the authors based on the results presented by
Martineau (22).
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Title Annotation:Special report
Author:Beaudoin, Melanie; Gosselin, Pierre
Publication:Revista Panamericana de Salud Publica
Date:Sep 1, 2016
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