Project Lead and Global Chief Heat Officer Eleni Myrivili’s Impactful Contributions Recognized on Nature’s “Ten People Who Helped Shape Science in 2023” List

WASHINGTON DC, DECEMBER 19, 2023 – Today, the Adrienne Arsht-Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center (Arsht-Rock) released the Hadrian Aqueduct Cooling District: Heat Risk Reduction Guidelines, a framework for designing public spaces to reduce urban temperatures. Spearheaded by Eleni Myrivili, Global Chief Heat Officer to UN Habitat and Arsht-Rock, the project marks a significant stride forward in building resilience to extreme heat.

Using Athens as a model, the guidelines examine the use of greenery, water, and building materials to reduce temperatures in urban centers. In recent years, Athens has faced devastating heat—Europe is warming at twice the global average rate, and Greece has been scorched by raging wildfires in past summers. The guidelines offer a nuanced approach to designing public urban spaces and highlight key questions that city planners must address when implementing and scaling their heat resilience solutions to effectively adopt a plan tailored to the cities’ priorities, challenges, and local context.

“Our cities are built for a different climate era,” Myrivili says. “It is urgent, now more than ever before, to reclaim public space from cars, and change the way we conceptualize and design our public areas: they should serve the purpose of reducing urban heat and providing a safe place for people to move in. These heat-risk-reduction guidelines focus on densely built cities in subtropical Mediterranean climates, and provide basic principles for approaching the design and construction of our public spaces for lowering temperatures. Identifying three basic urban typologies–streets, squares, and parks–we concentrate on using nature, water, and different materials for building a more resilient future for our cities.”

Myrivili’s remarkable global leadership in the field of extreme heat resilience recently earned her a coveted spot on the journal Nature‘s prestigious list of “Ten People Who Helped Shape Science in 2023.” Through her work with UN Habitat and Arsht-Rock, Myrivili has advanced projects that contribute to sustainable urban development and heat resilience in cities around the world. This commitment was recently underscored by her advocacy for the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)-led Global Cooling Pledge at the 2023 United Nations Conference of the Parties (COP28) climate conference in Dubai this month.

The guidelines offer a framework for other cities seeking to offset the severe impact of extreme heat on their residents, demonstrating how to incorporate nature-based solutions and sustainable, heat-reducing building materials into urban landscapes. This includes methods for integrating sustainable water elements into public spaces that not only reduce ambient temperatures but also support green infrastructure. Additionally, they provide technical guidance on selecting and utilizing materials with color and reflectivity that can be used in hot summer months.  

“These guidelines represent a pivotal step in reshaping our urban landscapes, fostering resilience, and combating the escalating threats of extreme heat,” said Jorge Gastelumendi, Director of Arsht-Rock. “We believe Eleni’s work on this initiative will serve as a catalyst for scalable urban redesign initiatives in other cities across the world.”