Prolonged heatwaves have been increasingly common in recent years, and cities are devising various strategies for combating the urban heat island effect. As Sydney experienced blistering summer temperatures of up to 50 degrees Celsius, the authorities have recently banned dark roofs on new homes and mandated lighter-coloured alternatives to reflect solar radiation. In Europe, Athens has taken the example of Miami and hired a Chief Heat Officer, tasked with finding coping strategies as the city confronts with heatwaves and wildfires that prompted a large number of residents to vacate the capital.
In an attempt to combat the urban heat island effect that affected Sydney’s suburbs, the city has made light-coloured roofs mandatory for all new houses. At the same time, the authorities require residential lots to feature at least one mature tree, as the canopy cover in some neighbourhoods is only 1 per cent. The new regulations will initially be applied in the suburb of WiltonSydney’s current climate strategy intends to further address urban heat by growing the city’s canopy cover by 50% by 2030 and implement cool pavements.
As heatwaves have become a staple for Athens and are set to be commonplace for years to come, the municipality has fallen in the footsteps of cities like Miami and hired a Chief Heat Officer tasked with finding adaptation strategies. Some measures proposed include rerouting energy from industrial areas to residential ones during heatwaves, creating air-conditioned community centres, covering asphalt surfaces in more reflective finishes and implementing roof gardens. The heatwaves have already triggered an exodus of residents and will most likely have a negative impact on the city’s tourist industry. Furthermore, the lack of green spaces in Athens poses health risks for its dwellers.
For several years now, researchers have been working on technologies that would help cool urban environments without the need for electricity. Various new coatings and finishes have been developed that would radiate heat, helping cool their surroundings. However, their large scale implementation is yet to be seen.