Our concrete jungles are getting so hot they could eventually become uninhabitable. But a team of UNSW researchers is working hard to cool them down.
In the middle of winter, Australians enjoy a brief respite from the crushing heat, and silently vow to better protect their homes next time summer comes around. But as more of us live in cities, there is another hurdle to overcome – the concrete jungles of our urban environment.
Nowhere is this more pronounced than in western Sydney. Deprived of the cool ocean breezes that soothe Sydney’s coastal areas, the city’s western sprawl suffers from the urban heat island effect, where dense building materials absorb more of the sun’s energy, where fewer trees provide shade, and waste heat from car engines and air conditioners intensify air temperatures.
More than 500 cities worldwide are currently dealing with this perfect storm of conditions, which has resulted in increased electricity demand, surging energy consumption in buildings, and higher mortality rates, particularly among the elderly.
It’s predicted the number of summer heatwave days experienced in some Australian cities could triple by 2050.