The Impact of Advanced Heat Mitigation Technologies on Urban Cooling

An innovative study conducted by UNSW Sydney reveals the possibility of reducing temperatures in a major city located in a hot desert climate while simultaneously reducing energy costs. The study, published in Nature Cities, focuses on cooling Saudi Arabia’s capital city, Riyadh, by up to 4.5°C. By combining reflective building materials, irrigated greenery, and energy retrofitting measures, the project demonstrates the potential of advanced heat mitigation technologies to combat urban overheating and enhance the quality of life for residents.

The Significance of Cooling Technologies

Urban heat poses a significant challenge with more than 450 cities around the world affected by extreme temperatures, leading to increased energy consumption and negative impacts on public health. Riyadh, situated in the center of a desert, experiences soaring temperatures exceeding 50°C during the summer. Climate change and rapid urbanization further exacerbate the problem. Conventional building materials contribute to heat trapping, while additional factors such as car pollution and industrial activities intensify the city’s temperature.

Researchers at UNSW conducted extensive cooling climatic and energy simulations focusing on the Al Masiaf precinct of Riyadh. The simulations included the energy performance of 3,323 urban buildings under various heat mitigation scenarios. The study explored the optimal strategies for reducing temperatures in the city and decreasing cooling needs. By considering combinations of super cool materials, vegetation types, and energy retrofitting levels, the research concludes that it is possible to decrease the outdoor temperature by nearly 4.5°C during the summer while conserving up to 16% of cooling energy.

Recommended Heat Mitigation Strategies

Based on the findings, the recommended heat mitigation scenario for Riyadh involves implementing super cool materials in building roofs and significantly increasing the number of irrigated trees to enhance transpiration cooling. However, the study highlights the importance of scientific optimization when implementing urban cooling techniques. Blindly adopting non-irrigated greenery, for example, can lead to a substantial temperature increase in the city. Thus, careful consideration and research-based decision-making are crucial.

Benefits of Urban Cooling

Lowering the temperature of a city like Riyadh offers numerous benefits, including increased thermal comfort, improved public health by reducing heat-related issues, decreased pollutant concentration, and enhanced human productivity. Similar cooling strategies implemented in other cities have already proven effective in reducing heat-related deaths. Moreover, the combination of optimal cooling technologies with energy retrofitting options, such as improving building envelopes and utilizing solar and cool roofs, has the potential to reduce cooling demands by up to 35%. This not only decreases costs associated with cooling but also improves the overall quality of life for residents.

The researchers aim to collaborate with the Royal Commission of Riyadh to implement the tailored heat mitigation plan in the city. If successful, Riyadh would be the world’s largest implementation of advanced heat mitigation technologies. The researchers foresee significant health, sustainability, and economic benefits for the city in the long term.

The UNSW Sydney study highlights the transformative potential of advanced heat mitigation technologies in combating urban overheating and reducing energy demands. By combining reflective building materials, green infrastructure, and energy retrofitting measures, cities like Riyadh can significantly decrease temperatures, improving the well-being of residents and creating a more sustainable urban environment. Continued research and implementation of these strategies hold promise for cities worldwide struggling with the adverse effects of extreme heat and climate change.


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