Heat waves are becoming more frequent due to climate change. What does that mean for the vulnerable residents of The Hague? In the applied research project “The Effect of heatwaves on vulnerable population groups in The Hague”, Dr. Sylvia Bergh and her research team investigated that for the municipality of The Hague.

They mapped out the needs of the elderly living independently. They also listed existing sustainable (so-called frugal) solutions. And they studied what the municipality can do to help vulnerable groups get through times of extreme heat and thus increase the city's heat resilience. 

Research project

During the study which took place between 1 March and 31 December 2021, the research team spoke to a wide selection of stakeholders. The team surveyed residents of Loosduinen, Schilderswijk and Transvaal and organised focus group discussions. In addition, they interviewed professionals from the private sector, care institutions, housing corporations and policy makers.

Striking findings

All this led to surprising insights. For example, it appears that the elderly use relatively simple solutions such as a wet towel or sponge less often than expected. At the same time, 80 per cent of those questioned wonder how they can cool themselves and are concerned about the costs involved. 

They were asked about solutions they would like to implement in their (shared) living spaces. Here, they mentioned three most frequently: awnings, air conditioning and green roofs. High costs and institutional barriers prevent them from investing in these. 

The study also underlines the important role that (in)formal networks and housing corporations play in reducing the vulnerability of the elderly. They can also do much to improve access to and increase knowledge about cooling. 


The most important policy recommendation for the municipality of The Hague is the appointment of a "heat director". This problem owner can work across the policy areas involved to create a heat-resistant city. The research team also provides recommendations on the further development of the local heat plan. More detailed findings and policy recommendations can be found in the final report. 

Publications and Funding

In addition to this main report, this research resulted in this opinion article in NRC Handelsblad and a conference paper. 

This research project was funded by the municipality of The Hague and was carried out as a collaboration between (and co-funded by) the Centre of Expertise Global Governance of The Hague University of Applied Sciences, the International Institute of Social Studies (ISS, Erasmus University Rotterdam) and the International Centre for Frugal Innovation (ICFI, Leiden-Delft-Erasmus Universities). 

Follow-up research

This project demonstrates the potential of the research theme and approach. Moreover, a diverse network of relevant stakeholders formed during the research. We are happy to continue on this path. That is why we are working on research proposals for practice-oriented research at the Global Governance Centre of Expertise. With this, we want to tackle the issue of heat waves in other cities as well. At a national, European and global level.
Are you interested in working with us on new ideas and research proposals? Please feel free to contact the project leader and senior researcher Dr Sylvia I. Bergh at s.i.bergh@hhs.nl

Research team

Principal Investigators

Dr Sylvia Bergh: Principal Investigator. Senior researcher (The Hague University of Applied Sciences) and associate professor in Development Management and Governance (International Institute of Social Studies, Erasmus University Rotterdam).
Ashley Richard Longman, MSc: researcher and project coordinator (The Hague University of Applied Sciences)
Dr Erwin van Tuijl: postdoctoral researcher (The International Institute of Social Studies, Erasmus University Rotterdam and The International Centre for Frugal Innovation, Leiden-Delft-Erasmus Universities)

Student assistants

Frédérique Kwantes: International and European Law (LLB), The Hague University of Applied Sciences
Mark Prins: Spatial Development - Climate & Management (BASc), The Hague University of Applied Sciences
Phillipa Purrio: Safety and Security Management Studies (BA), The Hague University of Applied Sciences
Delilah van Tol: International Law (LLB), The Hague University of Applied Sciences

Advisory Board

Professor Thea Hilhorst: Professor of Humanitarian Aid and Reconstruction, The International Institute of Social Studies (IISS), Erasmus University Rotterdam
Professor Peter Knorringa: Director of the International Centre for Frugal Innovation (ICFI) and Professor of Private Sector & Development, The International Institute of Social Studies, Erasmus University Rotterdam
Dr Jan Fransen: researcher at the International Centre for Frugal Innovation (ICFI) and deputy director of the Institute for Housing and Urban Development Studies (IHS), Erasmus University Rotterdam.