Engineering Faculty Part of UCLA Team that Wins Nearly $1 Million to Tackle Rising Heat in Los Angeles

A rendering of a cooling structure prototype that could be deployed by the Heat Resilient L.A. team.

Aaswath Raman and Christoper Yeung/UCLA
A rendering of a cooling structure prototype that could be deployed by the Heat Resilient L.A. team. .

Jan 8, 2021

By UCLA Samueli Newsroom

UCLA Samueli School of Engineering professors Aaswath Raman of materials science and engineering, and Y. Sungtaek Ju of mechanical and aerospace engineering and bioengineering join a team of 10 UCLA faculty members on the Heat Resilient L.A. project that has earned a $956,000 award in the Sustainable LA Grand Challenge Sandpit competition.

The prize is funded by a 2015 donation from the Anthony and Jeanne Pritzker Family Foundation. The Sustainable LA Grand Challenge is a new UCLA initiative that upends the traditional model for conceiving and funding research projects. The program emphasizes connection, experimentation and blue-sky thinking.

Over the next two years, the team that has brought together experts in engineering, urban planning, public health and environmental law across the UCLA campus will address the rapid increase in the number of extreme heat days in Los Angeles.

The group will determine the effects of extreme heat caused by climate change on Los Angeles communities, identifying the most vulnerable population that requires cooling interventions.

“What’s unique right now is that we have access to a portfolio of solutions and technologies that hadn’t been either thought of as plausible solutions or, frankly, available even just a few years ago,” said Raman, who is designing the cooling structures using technology that has been developed in recent years at UCLA and elsewhere. Raman said the project offers an opportunity to explore the real-world use of emerging cooling technologies and materials.

Based on their findings, the researchers will design new cooling structures and work with local stakeholders to determine where they should be installed. The team has designed a prototype structure that resembles a bus-stop shelter with a roof that provides shade, as well as a combination of radiant and evaporative-cooling technologies, allowing “passive cooling” for those nearby.

In addition to employing novel devices instead of the typical use of shade and trees to provide relief for local hot spots, what also makes Heat Resilient L.A. stand out is its focus on equity and community involvement. Throughout the project, the team plans to engage directly with communities to produce the best possible design for the cooling structures and choose the best possible locations.

Eight teams made up of more than 60 faculty members from 27 UCLA departments participated in the competition. The seven teams that did not win the grand prize will each receive $25,000 in seed funding from the Sustainable LA Grand Challenge, which will also provide continued research development support to help the teams further develop their ideas and pursue full funding from external organizations.

“One of the most exciting aspects of the sandpit is that we heard eight fantastic pitches,” said Eric Hoek, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at UCLA Samueli and director of the Sustainable LA Grand Challenge. “Any of those projects could make a significant, tangible contribution toward our city’s and county’s sustainability goals, and we’re excited to help them all realize their potential.”

The story highlights a UCLA Newsroom release, which is available here.

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