Analysis of correlations between neighborhood-level vulnerability to climate change and protective green building design strategies: A spatial and ecological analysis

Adele Houghton, Carlos Castillo-Salgado

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Background: The health effects associated with extreme weather events are highly localized, because key characteristics of the built environment and the resident population change from one neighborhood to the next. Green building programs such as LEED incorporate design strategies that, if applied proactively, could enhance community resilience and public health by reducing the adverse effects of climatic events, particularly in vulnerable neighborhoods. Methods: This exploratory spatial and ecological analysis assessed the spatial correlation between protective green building strategies and neighborhood-level vulnerability to two climatic events — extreme heat and flooding — in Austin, TX, and Chicago, IL, from 2001 to 2012. Results: In both locations, the frequency analysis found far fewer occurrences of LEED certified projects in neighborhoods with high densities of vulnerable populations. The hot spot and spatial autocorrelation analyses found no spatial correlation between clusters of protective green building strategies and clusters of vulnerable populations. Conclusions: Green building projects were not used in Austin or Chicago from 2001 to 2012 as a tool to reduce neighborhood vulnerability to the health and environmental effects of two high-risk climatic events: extreme heat and flooding. However, green building design, construction, and operations and maintenance projects could use local vulnerability maps and spatial analysis techniques to support decisions prioritizing strategies that simultaneously reduce GHG emissions and protect building occupants from exposure to climatic events. Similarly, local policymakers could use spatial analysis to prioritize protective built environment policies in the neighborhoods where they would do the most good.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number106523
JournalBuilding and Environment
Publication statusPublished - Jan 15 2020



  • Climate change vulnerability
  • Ecological analysis
  • Flooding
  • Green building
  • Heat
  • Spatial analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Building and Construction

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