10 Green-Tech City Solutions for Beating Urban Heat Islands

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More than half of the global population lives in cities. Urban development introduces a heat island effect, creating higher temperatures in cities than the surrounding areas. Poor urban design, heat retaining materials, and increasing urban populations all exacerbate the problem. Therefore, cities dramatically transform the local ecosystem. Urban heat islands (UHIs) negatively impact local weather patterns and environmental quality, resulting in detrimental health and ecosystem effects. UHIs may be a significant component of global climate change. Some research shows urban thermal plumes may influence wind patterns, affecting the melting of ice and ocean current cycles on a global scale, while other studies show that there is little difference between the global heat contributions from cities and surrounding rural areas. UHIs are a local effect that transforms temperatures on a microscale rather than a global scale. Cities can work towards lower UHIs through sustainable living, building techniques, and urban planning. All of these efforts combined can save urban areas significant amounts of energy and money.

In this photo series, National Geographic reveals 10 innovative ways major cities are trying to address the high temperatures associated with urban areas:

  • City Forest, Singapore: 11-million square feet dedicated to reducing the UHI using plants and trees.  This includes a group of 18 “supertrees” that are “vertical gardens up to 164 feet (50 meters) tall that capture rainwater, filter exhaust, and are capped with solar panels that provide enough energy to light up the trees at night.”
  • Berlin, Germany: In an effort to green their government buildings, Germany retrofitted their parliament building dome with glass and mirrors to reflect daylight into the main chamber for natural lighting.  “The dome-reflector system also draws warm air out of the building. This feature, combined with the fact that the building can make its own electricity from refined vegetable oil, as well as store excess heat underground, brings the building’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions down by 94 percent, according to the architect.”
  • New York, USA: There is a floating environmental education classroom and greenhouse on the Hudson River.  “Fueled by solar power, wind, and biofuels, the barge, which was built in 2007, has zero net carbon emissions. Vegetables are grown hydroponically—with plants getting all of their necessary nutrients from water instead of soil—in an effort to preserve natural resources and adapt to urban environments, where healthy soil, or soil at all, is hard to come by.”

View the rest of the examples here.

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