Cool solutions: How cities are beating the heat in urban areas


When temperatures reach or exceed 40°C, it becomes difficult to find any cool space in big cities. Photo: AFP

Heatwaves are becoming more and more frequent, and living conditions are rapidly becoming stifling in urban areas. As a result, more and more cities are trying to improve their resilience by using various solutions to help cool things down.

Here's a look at some of the initiatives helping cities stay cool, even when the mercury heads over 30°C.

Cities that are already considered resilient, and have an action plan in place to combat the effects of global warming in the coming years, are Melbourne (Australia), Buenos Aires (Argentina), Durban (South Africa) and Barcelona (Spain).

In the United States, Google has understood that one of the best ways to fight the heat is to make cities greener.

In order to help local authorities, Google has developed a tool called Tree Canopy, which can give a highly accurate picture of a city's green cover in order to help determine where to plant trees, and where there are not enough of them already.

The idea is to identify areas where tree canopy coverage is already dense, and those, on the other hand, where the canopy is too sparse.

Google has already published maps of a dozen American cities, from Los Angeles to Miami, including Chicago and Washington. Now, all that remains is to plant the trees necessary to satisfy these needs.

In the Middle East, Abu Dhabi is developing various solutions to help residents keep cool, using vegetation and specially tailored street furniture.

For example, the capital of the United Arab Emirates recently inaugurated a new kind of park, with awnings and blinds that open up at night, small walls to channel the (hot) breeze, misters and strategically placed native plants.

Note that near Abu Dhabi is Masdar City, a new "green" city where climate resilience was taken into account from the moment it was built.

Meanwhile, in Barcelona, residents and tourists can take advantage of a highly practical online tool called Cool Walks, to help pedestrians find shady routes, places to shelter and drinking fountains at any time of day.

This tool allows users to plan a route not based on available public transport or walking time, but on their exposure to the sun.

Finally, in France, the Urban Canopee startup proposes autonomous and connected plant structures that are easy to transport and to maintain, for cities seeking to create cool spots.

These canopies are intended to provide shade and coolness for residents, while also contributing to the restoration of urban biodiversity.

The idea is to reduce exposure to the sun and heat in highly exposed areas, such as large public squares. In addition to about 60 cities in France, this solution is already being used in Switzerland and Australia. – AFP Relaxnews

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