CHAMPION COLUMN | Cool Suburbs program to improve resilience

Cr Stephen Bali, President, WSROC

Cr Stephen Bali, President, WSROC

You may have heard talk of the Sydney Resilience Strategy over the last few weeks. But what is resilience? And why should we care? Simply, resilience is the community’s ability to cope with everyday stresses like traffic congestion and cost of living as well as one-off shocks such as bushfires or terrorist attacks.

Last month, an organisation called Resilient Sydney launched Sydney’s first Resilience Strategy, a document that identifies the key stresses and shocks for our city and lays out a plan to manage them.

One of the top shocks listed was extreme heat (days 40 ℃ and over) and heatwaves (three or more consecutive days of unusually high temperatures). Heat is especially felt in Western Sydney. During heatwave conditions, Western Sydney suffers three times more heat-related deaths than Sydney’s east. The extra heat causes household energy bills to soar, while huge electricity spikes put pressures on our energy grid. To address this, Resilient Sydney supports an initiative called Cool Suburbs. This acknowledges that we must do more than just turn on the air-conditioning if we are to build a cooler, more liveable and resilient future – improving urban planning and building design is essential.

Today’s tendency to use dark roofs, concrete and bitumen makes our suburbs very efficient at absorbing and holding onto heat, raising temperatures in our towns. How can we improve? By choosing lighter colours to reflect heat, specifying cool materials, planting more shady trees and designing with water.

The Cool Suburbs program would encourage developers to apply for a Cool Score, a measurement of a site’s ability to stay cool during hot weather; inside and out.

Cool Suburbs was developed as part of WSROC’s urban heat initiative. We’ll work closely with Resilient Sydney, the Greater Sydney Commission and councils to see this project come to life. It’s hoped Cool Suburbs will provide an incentive to build communities that are naturally cooler, reducing the demand for expensive air-conditioning. It will also improve awareness of heat concerns in the community and help home-buyers make better-informed choices. Together we can cool our suburbs.

Cr STEPHEN BALI

President, WSROC

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