Cooling Darwin

The Urban Development Institute of Australia (NT) is committed to the advancement of sustainable developments for the Northern Territory.  But one of the challenges faced by the industry in achieving sustainability in Darwin is delivery of dwellings, in this case apartments, which are comfortable and affordable, both to purchase and to manage, in our tropical climate. Our hot weather is one of the reasons people choose to move interstate and is a competitive disadvantage when we compare our mean maximum temperatures to those of other major tropical cities in Australia and nearby countries.

 Could we achieve the seemingly impossible and make Darwin a cooler and therefore more attractive place to live? Recent research for the city suggests that the answer may be “yes”!  This must surely be good news for everyone, particularly given recent record-breaking temperatures in Darwin and the expectation that this warming will continue in the future.

 Temperature scans for Darwin’s Central Business District have provided new impetus for re-designing our city to make it cooler. Research to date is suggesting that shading roads, ensuring walkways are covered with shade from trees or man-made materials, introducing water bodies and water features, moving public carparks underground and planting trees or other vegetation over the top of them, and introducing design innovations such as green walls / roofs, could reduce ambient temperatures in the city by around two or more degrees Celsius.  Such measures to mitigate the heat generated through artificial features such as roads and car parks could have far-reaching consequences for the development industry.

 Ground level innovations such as water bodies and fountains to help alleviate heat have obvious implications for the design of apartment buildings, their layout on the block, setbacks and the footprint a building will occupy.  Similarly, allowing more space for trees and /or shade structures will require new approaches to designing buildings, which will also be affected by new green wall and green roof innovations.

 Heat on some apartment building walls can be extreme and there is a need to ensure design and orientation provides the maximum comfort levels for apartment dwellers, particularly those who spend much of their day at home instead of in an air-conditioned office.

 More comfortable environments for walking within the city can be expected to encourage more people to walk to shops or their office, rather than take their car.  Some people living in the city are already choosing not to have their own car; if more people were to make the same decision, we would reduce greenhouse gas emissions, reduce parking pressure in apartment buildings and the CBD and also improve the health and fitness of city residents.

 One of the factors that needs to be carefully managed in modifying buildings to mitigate heat is the cost of achieving the necessary changes.  Higher design and construction costs translate into higher costs for purchasers, at a time when it is already more difficult to secure finance for home purchases than it has been in the past.  But these higher costs can be offset by lower home running costs, improved comfort levels, and reduced construction costs through innovation in design, materials and construction methods.

 Reduction of ambient temperatures in the city is an ambitious target and will take many years to achieve.  But the UDIA believes the measures currently being considered to achieve cooling of the city environment will also soften the landscape and significantly improve the aesthetic appeal of Darwin for visitors and new residents.

 The Urban Development Institute of Australia (NT) commends and supports the NT Government initiative to investigate opportunities for cooling Darwin to enhance liveability.  Improvements to liveability coupled with a strong, growing and more stable economy, will facilitate population growth and stability, which in turn will provide more predictable and productive environments for the business community.

To view the article as it was published in the NT News click here