online tool to help urban planners drop the heat

As temperatures rise in our cities and the urban heat island effect intensifies, there’s never been a better time for a new tool that helps planners visualise possible techniques to reduce heat levels in our cities.

The Microclimate and Urban Heat Island Mitigation Decision-Support Tool was designed by researchers at UNSW in partnership with the CRC for Low Carbon Living.

It combines scientific models, case studies and broad sustainability guidelines into an easy to use 3D interface. The tool enables users to visualise the effects of heat mitigation techniques such as adding trees or incorporating cool roofs and pavements by overlaying them onto maps of existing infrastructure.

It’s expected to become a useful point of reference for decision making by governments, developers and planners, having already been used to demonstrate heat mitigation scenarios in Sydney development projects such as the Green Square Town Centre redevelopment by Landcom and the City of Sydney, and the Parramatta Civic Link redevelopment by Parramatta City Council.

Project leader and associate professor at UNSW, Lan Ding, added that its simple design means you don’t need a technical background to take advantage of it.

“You simply click to explore development alternatives and view the potential of mitigation options to reduce the impact of urban overheating,” Dr Ding said.

“This tool is unique because it integrates scientific models with a range of mitigation techniques to provide urban heat island mitigation analysis across both urban and building scales, such as urban form, parks, greenery, waterways and cool roofs.”

It is the result of collaboration between multiple research streams and stakeholders, said CRCLCL chief executive officer professor Deo Prasad, including state and local governments, the built environment industry and academia.

“This tool and others like it that CRCLCL research has created over the past seven years is helping change the face of the way we plan and build our cities to mitigate climate change,” professor Prasad said.

“This is just the start to the way we build cities of the future to ensure they are sustainable, resilient, healthy and liveable.”

This tool aims to close the gap between research and the practical application of urban microclimates.

The CRC for Low Carbon Living, a research and innovation hub committed to lowering carbon emissions in the built environment sector, officially wraps up at the end of June. Its legacy includes research projects and initiatives such as its peer-to-peer energy program and a reality lifestyle TV show with a twist.

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