Cutting Air-Cons on Hottest Days?

Australia's dark roofsBecause of draconian building and planning laws our state government has made our society totally dependent on air-conditioning in the hot summer months.

Now they are talking about shutting off air-conditioning on hot days at peak times?   See this article in today’s West Australian, which was tucked away on page 16.

With our out of control population growth and increasing temperatures, it isn’t really too hard to imagine that just like traffic congestion, housing shortages, ground water depletion, etc., that electricity supply will also be beyond their ability manage.  All of this “growth” and “progress”, is giving us big McMansions, but will they be uninhabitable in summer?  

Urban planners and architects around the world have long known that urban heat can be reduced simply with trees and greenery.

But even though Perth is a very hot and dry city, our backward governments have allowed developers to chop down virtually any trees they like, wherever they like.  They have allowed a clear felling approach to land clearing.  We don’t have tree protection laws like more advanced states and countries, who recognise the significant cooling, air filtering and other services and benefits that large mature trees provide.  Less barbaric places around the world make developers and private land owners build around existing trees.  Trees not only keep the ground cool with their shade and therefore reduce evaporation from the soil, but they also cool the air as well.  As breeze passes through their canopies, they act like giant evaporative air-conditioners.

Thermal imaging studies of Perth suburbs, clearly show that vegetated suburbs like Mosman Park with lots of trees are significantly cooler.  Our urban forest (Perth’s metropolitan area) is over 5,000 square kilometres, they have allowed most of the trees to be removed and replace them with pavement, roads and hot tiled of tin roofs. These surfaces  all absorb heat during the day, making built up areas up to 12 degrees hotter at night when the radiate the heat they have absorbed.

Trees and forests if nothing else increase rainfall. The more trees that are chopped down the dryer get.  You would think that in a place with chronic water issues and declining rainfall, there would be laws to protect every tree standing in the state.  But not this backward government, they are  actually planning to ramp up native forest logging, which isn’t even profitable.

You would also think in a hot place like Perth, that we would have major initiatives to encourage living roofs and walls?  When was the last time you saw one in Perth?  You have to go to wetter cooler places like Canada and Europe to see innovative ideas like that.  Living roofs on houses and buildings can eliminate or at least  drastically reduce the need for air-conditioning.  It’s not rocket science, it not knew technology,  living roofs don’t cost any more to build and they save money and energy.  They can also look amazing.  Living roofs insulate, keeping the warmth in winter and keep the house cool in summer.  See our next post or search “living roofs” on YouTube.

Homini Hotel -Letamo Estate in S.Africa

Since they are not making people leave room for a tree in their back yards anymore, to shade their western walls from the hot afternoon sun, they could at least offer incentives for people to build living walls and roofs and make street trees mandatory. Some people are terrified that they may get leaves on their lawns.  But community education about the importance of trees would soon change minds.

The best this government seems to have come up with is a 6 Star Energy rating building code that will be imposed this May (finally) for all new buildings and renovations.  Though better than the negligent free-for-all that is going on now, many say this is too low as 10 stars is quite achievable these days with modern technologies.

It is about time that the WA government focused on the common good of its people, rather than the profits and wishes of developers and the construction industry, by implementing a serious Urban Heat Island Mitigation program.   Heat waves are killers.  Turning off air-conditioners on very hot days with our current buildings and urban layouts would see hospital emergency departments inundated.  Heat waves are especially dangerous for the elderly and vulnerable.

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