western Sydney heat

Three times as many people die from heat-related deaths in Sydney’s west than its east during extreme temperature events, according to new research from the University of NSW and Sydney Water. But the installation of more public fountains, ponds and mist could decrease extreme temperatures and reduce heat-related deaths by 50 per cent.

Water technology combined with additional canopies and greenery, and cool pavement materials could also lead to a five per cent drop in peak electricity demand.

“As Sydney is set to experience more prolonged summer heatwaves in the future due to a changing climate, it will be critical for temperature peaks to be reduced to improve thermal comfort,” Sydney Water research direction and value manager Dr Michael Storey said.

“The careful selection of water-based technologies and building materials can take the top off the peak temperatures in extreme heatwave conditions in Sydney’s west.”

Western Sydney receives little relief from cool sea breezes because of its location between the Blue Mountains and the CBD, with summer temperatures 6-10°C higher than in the east, the Cooling Western Sydney study revealed.

With up to three times as many heat-related deaths during extreme temperatures compared to the east, the far west could see a reduction in these deaths from 14 to 7.5 people per 100,000 people, the report said.

The researchers collaborated with the CRC for Low Carbon Living and examined eight sites in the west from 2014-2017, including Penrith, Canterbury, Liverpool, Bankstown, Fairfield, Campbelltown, Hawkesbury and Parramatta.

Together they found that installing water systems such as pools, sprinklers, fountains, evaporative wind towers and water curtains in combination with high-reflective materials like infrared reflective tiles and white cool roofs could decrease temperatures by 2.5 degrees.

The amount of energy savings would be equivalent to the amount used to power about 262,000 homes for a year, which also equals almost one million tonnes of avoided CO2 emissions.

UNSW high performance architecture professor and lead researcher of the study Mat Santamouris said we couldn’t solely rely on green space as a means of cooling the city because trees were also subject to extreme heat stress, which go into survival mode to conserve water to keep themselves cool.

“The solution is not just about planting trees, which seems to be the commonly held view,” Mr Santamouris said.

“We must take a multi-faceted approach that includes using water technology and high solar reflectance, or albedo on roofs, building facades and pavements.”

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  1. There is overwhelming evidence that time spent in cool green urban environments can reduce the negative heat related burden of disease in summer.
    In Australia, unfortunately the potential for greening of transport network corridor reservations never acknowledges or discusses the health benefit, or quantifies this observation.

  2. As the former UNESCO Professor of Tropical Architecture at James Cook University, Townsville QLD, I fully endorse the use of aluminium foil radiant barriers under roofing in Australia.

    I have lived and in warm humid climates for more than 15 years and conducted research in roof spaces of houses for the Queensland Government verifying the signicant benefits of reflective foil. Not only does it control radiant heat gain during the day but also allows heat to to escape at night, unlike bulk insulation such as fibreglass that traps heat under the roof at night.

  3. I read with interest your article, part quoted below.

    “Together they found that installing water systems such as pools, sprinklers, fountains, evaporative wind towers and water curtains in combination with high-reflective materials like infrared reflective tiles and white cool roofs could decrease temperatures by 2.5 degrees.”


    These ideas with water would be somewhat hard to apply:

    • to homes, especially OCCUPANTS such as older people with medical conditions, and the frail, and

    • what about the man made heat sinks we create with road and pavements and brick homes “all in a row” with no land for any shade proving vegetation.

    • what about during drought conditions or when we have power blackouts.

    Regarding infrared reflective tiles, how durable and long-life will they be?

    White cool roofs, dust and grime will surely affect their performance, and I believe these are banned near aeroplane flight paths?
    “could decrease temperatures by 2.5 degrees.”

    The St Regis – ACI report found using double sided antiglare foil at rafter level reduced temperatures up to 6°C.

    A simple, cost-effective under roof foil sarking that reflects solar radiation.

  4. Important story.
    What is needed is the fast tracking of mandatory reflective foil radiant heat barrier sarkings under every new residential roof in Australia. And actively encourage retrofit foil insulations to all existing houses.

    Foil sarking membranes have been used in Australian buildings since 1953. My father sold the very first roll, and it was in a church roof in suburban Melbourne.

    Don’t expect Standards Australia to make this happen. The insulation Standards and regulations are biased in favour of high Rvalue fibre batt insulation – the very worse insulation to use in hot climates because of it’s heat absorption properties and poor cool down effects at evening time.