Urban development simulator lets planners keep their cool

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Urban development simulator lets planners keep their cool

3D tool shows how to beat the heat.

A new online simulation tool for urban developments is helping city planners tackle the twin issues of climate change and urban heat islands by visualising the effects of various heat mitigation techniques like trees and water features.

The urban heat island (UHI) effect, whereby cities can be several degrees warmer than their rural surrounds thanks to human activities, building materials and reduced plant cover, is a particular challenge for urban planners in the face of warming climates.

The Microclimate and UHU Mitigation Decision-Support Tool brings together scientific models, case studies and broad guidelines to help local governments and development industries.

It was developed by the Low Carbon Living Cooperative Research Centre, whose 45 members include the CSIRO, Bluescope, and five Australian universities, for use by non-technical staff involved in urban projects can be involved in reducing heat-related stress during the protracted warmer months.

Project leader, associate professor Lan Ding from UNSW’s Faculty of Built Environment, said the tool will not only provide scenario analysis to better address the heat, it will inform future urban policy, development assessment and planning practices in related to mitigate urban overheating, improve outdoor thermal comfort and protect the health of the vulnerable.

“This tool can be used by people without any technical background. You simply click to explore development alternatives and view the potential of mitigation options to reduce the impact of urban overheating,” she said.

Simulations can be tailored to microclimates across different regions in different cities, providing a decision-support tool to bridge the gap between urban climate research and the practical application of heat reduction strategies in public spaces.

It’s already been put to work demonstrating UHI mitigation scenarios of development projects at Sydney’s Green Square Town Centre, Parramatta Civic Link, and Macarthur Heights greenfield development.

The CRC’s chief executive, Deo Prasad, added that “this is just the start to the way we build cities of the future to ensure they are sustainable, resilient, healthy and liveable”.

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