New online resource to guide thinking on cooling cities

A new website that identifies patterns for creating accessible, cool outdoor spaces based on real-world living practices aims to serve as guidance for local councils, planners and developers in addressing the problems of a warming climate.

Based on a pilot study conducted by the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), the Institute for Culture and Society at Western Sydney University and Landcom, Cooling the Commonis described as ‘an action research program that co-designs practices and infrastructures for accessible cool living in an age of urban heating’.

This online resource offers a Pattern Deck of more than 40 ‘patterns’ that describe key arrangements between the built environment and social practices to support commons-based cooling. These patterns, which could guide urban design and public policy, are drawn from the research study that employed the concept of the ‘cool commons’ to identify those spaces that offer cooler temperatures than surrounding areas, and are accessible to the community.

In addition to creative practices employed by people to cool down, the study also found a high degree of appreciation for residual cool commons as well as a strong aspiration for cool commons resulting from access to shade, shelter and water.

Examples from the Pattern Deck include shade trees, water features, cool parks, night-time commons, outdoor play areas, cooling infrastructure for birds and animals, private garden trees, misting devices, accessible clean water for recreation and more.

Observing that the patterns are not one-size-fits-all solutions, Abby Mellick Lopes, associate professor in design studies at UTS says, “This pattern deck is designed as an informative tool to support the best possible outcomes through collaborative decision-making among stakeholders.”

The deck represents strategies and resources we identify as necessary to ensure liveability in both new and renewing neighbourhoods into the future. Developed to be an interactive resource, it will evolve over time as professionals use it and give us their feedback.”

According to Lopes, Accessible Water such as splash pools or misting, for instance, promotes the integration of water for play, drinking and cooling into the public domain to enhance space cooling through contact with water. This can reduce peak ambient temperatures by 3°C to 8°C in low humidity conditions.

“Accessible Water is an important element of the built environment, enabling people to move comfortably out and about on hot days or nights and it is a way to enhance the quality of outdoor play spaces, particularly during summer,” she added.

Lauren Kajewski, director of sustainability and learning at Landcom describes the collaboration between UTS, Western Sydney University and Landcom as the kind of partnership that will shape innovative and sustainable communities.

Landcom has a strong commitment to collaborate with universities and industry partners through our Roundtable, so that academia and the development industry can work with, and learn from, each other. This enables us to create better outcomes for our communities as well as to inspire the rest of industry. This pattern deck is a perfect example of such an impact.