In September 2020, a team of research professors from Grenoble Ecole de Management conducted a groundbreaking study in the Grenoble metropolitan area. Their goal? To explore the feelings and actions of residents in response to heat waves that have affected the urban area in previous summers.
Interview with Corinne Faure, research professor at GEM, co-author of this study alongside Frédéric Bally, Thibault Daudigeos, Julien Lafaille, Joachim Schleich and Vincent Vindevoghel, the team of presearch professors at GEM who started the project.
What is the context of your study, and what is its research purpose?
In France, Grenoble is known for its "heat island" effect, which is linked to the topography of the area. In the Grenoble area, the heat tends to increase in summer, particularly in recent years. Grenoble Ecole de Management's Territories in Transition Chairs work on the effects of climate change. One of the unique aspects of the Chairs is their cooperation with Cluster Montagne, which is particularly interested in promoting access to different mountain areas.
Our joint objective is descriptive. It consists of reporting on the problems affecting the people of Grenoble during periods of hot weather and setting priorities, in particular with the public authorities.
How did your investigation work out?
Two groups of researchers participated in this study: a group interested in mountain issues and a team specialized in energy efficiency (both in cooperation with the Territories in Transition chairs). Our work consisted of studying the changes in behavior of the inhabitants of the Grenoble area (representative panel of 888 participants) in response to recurring heat waves: drinking more and getting fresh air in green spaces, etc. We also analyzed the solutions used, from least to most sustainable, i.e. installing air conditioning or a fan rather than insulating your home. Currently, having a fan is the most popular.
As far as the mountains are concerned, the idea was to analyze how the people of Grenoble view different living possibilities outside of the urban area, and what uses could be made of the surrounding mountain areas. For example, remote working has been considered using coworking spaces in the mountains.
What were the main results obtained?
The study found that three-quarters of the city's residents went to the mountains at least once last summer, with more than half of them going for a day. And, the vast majority prefer a natural, isolated place or a small village, rather than small or large ski resorts. The needs regarding coworking spaces in the mountains are statistically a minority. This is something we intend to explore.
As far as public policies are concerned, the expectations of the people of Grenoble mainly concern the development of vegetation in asphalt areas, especially near schools.
Other findings: housing in the city is poorly adapted to heat waves, especially in Grenoble intra-muros as well as two thirds of low-income households.
So what were your preliminary findings?
This study sets out the first steps in heat wave management, and makes the following observations: the inhabitants of Grenoble are realistic. Nine out of ten residents believe that the heat will get worse. And this heat is intense: in previous summers, temperatures were above 35 C for about ten days. By 2050, climate predictions expect nearly fifty or even a hundred days of high temperatures per year in the Grenoble basin.
Our study confirmed the strong divide that exists between the poorer and richer residents of the city. For some residents, they cannot even open the windows at night, nor can they leave the city to escape the heat. Thus, the residents of Grenoble city center and the suburban and rural areas do not experience the heat wave in the same way. It should be noted that 39% of those surveyed are considering changing their home to cope with the next heat wave.
This study analyzed and quantified the stresses associated with heat waves, and will help to better target the second study which is planned for the summer of 2021.