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Videos from the CRC for Low Carbon Living show how to cool our cities

How does the urban heat island respond to new tree plantings or a cool new pond? Or a new building in Parramatta? And how did residents at Lochiel Park in South Australia achieve more than 60 per cent energy savings? Two new videos from the CRCLCL capture the hands-on insights and the excitement of new interactive modeling tools that can answer those questions. 

VIDEOS: The CRC for Low Carbon Living may have officially wrapped up at the end of June, but its impact is far from over. The legacy of this seven year running collaborative research centre continues with a suit of tools and guides to help everyone from consumers to councils and designers make better, more comfortable buildings and communities.

Two great videos released as part of the work the CRCLCL’s Towards Zero Carbon series offer a snapshot of how its work has been implemented so far, and the importance and potential for continuing to improve the sustainability of our homes and cities into the future.

“Our cities are getting so hot, they could eventually become uninhabitable”

The first video outlines how the conditions created by our city designs are interacting with climate change to create worsening heat island effects, and then offers remedies by way of research and technology designed to make our population hubs more comfortable.

It features one tool designed by UNSW’s associate professor Lan Ding that maps heat distribution in cities and one guide compiled by associate professor Paul Osmond brimming with heat mitigation advice for each of the country’s capital cities.

Professor Ding’s tool is called The Microclimate and Urban Heat Island Mitigation Decision-Support Tool. It’s a sophisticated piece of online software that allows users to visualise the thermal footprint of select cities both as they stand and with the addition of heat mitigation strategies such as planted trees and water features. So you can play around with various options and see what the impact your ideas will have.

The support tool aims to help designers better plan cities to address heat while informing urban policy and planning practices related to potential building and urban intervention. 

The guide to urban cooling strategies developed by associate professor Paul Osmond offers heat mitigation advice to built environment professionals from every capital city, tailored to their region. 

Strategies suggested for heat mitigation include shading structures, vertical greening systems, water features such as fountains, sprinklers and ponds, and the use of special reflective materials to cool down roads and pavements without creating glare.

What goes up will hopefully come down

One of the cities in which the CRCLCL has been researching and implementing its strategies is Parramatta in Sydney’s west. This project has been overseen by professor Mattheos Santamouris, an international authority on urban heat mitigation, who has worked for more than 15 years in mapping urban heat island effects in over 200 cities around the world. 

In Parramatta temperature tend to be 5-10 degrees hotter than the eastern seaboard and as population density rises, so too are its skylines.

“We’re getting larger buildings and larger spans of concrete,” says City of Parramatta lord mayor, Andrew Wilson. “You can see on the heat map how many of those buildings and patches of concrete are basically retaining heat over night and so you’re seeing the liveability of our city go down.”

This information is captured by the CRCLCL research partners using a thermal imaging drone and the information visualised and transmitted by a 20 metre, extendable aerial. Professor Santamouris and his team then use this data to offer practical and proven strategies to decrease ambient temperatures by around 1-2 degrees Celsius and improve the city’s comfort levels by 50-60 per cent.

“By having all this visualised information we are able to target the hot spots, design alternative solutions, and really have the best possible efficiency and performance,” says professor Santamouris.

Something’s gotta give

The second video looks at applying this research and more to making our homes and immediate communities more liveable. 

“We can’t continue planning our cities like we’ve always done,” says Josh Byrne, researcher for CRCLCL and host of Gardening Australia and Renovate or Rebuild. 

If we do, Dr Byrne says, “we’re going to find that energy and water prices will continue to skyrocket, people will be pushed further and further from the city centre, and quality of life will deteriorate.”

To offer practical, evidence based solutions, the CRCLCL has been supporting 17 living laboratories across Australia for the past seven years. These have captured real time data on energy and water use, daily routines and human behaviour, and feeding that research back to teams to use as the evidence base in developing new tools and strategies for more comfortable living. 

These sustainable, residential developments being monitored include Lochiel Park Green Village in Adelaide. One of the first living laboratories to be established, Lochiel Park now has over 250 residents living in 7.5-star energy efficiency rating homes, reaping the benefits of a reduced energy consumption of up to 64 per cent and 74 per cent in greenhouse gas emissions. 

The trade off is in the feeding back of their valuable data to CRCLCL researchers such as Stephen Berry, from the University of South Australia.

“We know exactly what’s happening,” Dr Berry explains, “how low carbon houses perform.” It means they can look at the bottom line and understand what living sustainable actually means for real residents’ hip pockets.

The hope is that with this information they can better understand how design guidelines and sustainability living incentives can be used to increase the uptake of more sustainable homes and energy efficient technology across the country.

To find out more about the CRCLCL’s work, head to the website or the legacy online knowledge hub for built environment professionals.

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