Did you know that the heat effect that cities have can make Paris a whopping 9 to 18 degrees Fahrenheit hotter than its surroundings? That’s around 5 to 10 degrees Celsius. Barcelona’s city center is also sometimes up to 8 degrees Celsius hotter.
See for yourself and draw your own conclusions.
Want to help keep the people in your city stay cool? Be proactive. Work with what you’ve got. Go with the flow.
- Add more green roofs and green walls.
- Grow urban forests. Plant trees. In any case, don’t cut them.
- Providing cooling water features. (Ensure that the water is clean.)
- Use modern version of ancient cooling techniques in construction.
- Provide shade for heat-trapping features like bus stop shelters.
- Map all cool spots and offer people an app so that they always can find a cool spot to go to that is within easy reach.
- Paint roofs in cities white to beat the heat trap effect that cities have, but not roof terraces and not streets, otherwise people on them will absorb more heat.
As you can see, the problem with painting surfaces white, however, is that the reflected heat goes elsewhere, so conversely, painting certain things black where the heat they absorb does no harm or is even beneficial might be a better solution.
Going with the flow is realizing that you have an enormous amount of heat coming in and doing something useful with it. At the moment, when it’s hot, some facilities can no longer use water to cool their operations. Can more be done with the incoming heat? Can it be stored to be used in the winter to lower our traditional energy consumption to heat our homes? Can you somehow use the incoming heat in combination with water because evaporation of water costs energy and hence draws heat out of the air and use the water circulation as an energy source? The trick to dealing with all this incoming energy (heat = energy) is to convert it into a different form of energy so that we stop or slow down the growth of the atmospheric heat trap that we’ve been creating because of how we generate energy.
(No, I don’t know a thing about heat pumps.)
That is not the only challenge we are facing, obviously. We have to change our entire way of living. It’s ridiculous, for example, that homes that “build with nature” are often not permitted whereas ugly wasteful polluting heat traps are still the approved norm and that we still see increases in our immensely polluting wasteful industrial production as something positive to strive for. That’s not good.
Put differently… when real estate investors and oil & gas giants make record profits because consumers (and energy providers) are paying record prices for housing and energy (enabled by regulatory organizations like Ofgem), that is often seen as good by many because high profits are seen as good – but is that actually the case? Excesses and extreme differences make systems unstable. The fact that energy companies are failing indicates that the problem does not necessarily lie with the energy providers themselves. So instead of charging customers more, the other side of the problem needs to be tackled. The cause.
When the construction industry in the UK – personified by Stewart Baseley, the Home Builders Federation’s executive chair – moans that they do not want regulations that help people who live in the homes they construct survive in the increasing heat and refuse to adapt, it is clear that this industry is not in the business of creating homes but in generating profits at the expense of people. That is what needs to change.
But it also suggests that the dialogue needs to change between regulators and home-builders.
“The housing industry is quite traditional and old-fashioned in adapting and there are a lot of challenges that we need to deal with around zero-carbon and future-proofing,” says James Knight, of design and engineering consultancy Arcadis.
All of this needs to change.
A little detail that also needs to be tackled is the nonsense of energy certificates for homes. They’re often complete BS and only create more useless paperwork. This is part of the dialogue that needs to improve.
How can you start changing a sector that is reluctant? Make them liable. Hold the housing sector liable for, for example, heat-related deaths in homes that overheat. Hold the entire energy sector (by which I mean “including oil & gas companies”) liable for deaths caused by for example people with diabetes not being able to afford to keep their insulin refrigerated. Teach them societal responsibility.
Force companies to start competing on how considerate they are instead of watching the most considerate businesses go under and moaning about the proverbial sharks that remain.