Environmental Studies Paper on Turning Down the Heat on Western Sydney

PART A. Behavior Mapping

Element 1. Personal Response to a heat wave

Cool Spot options

Even though hot weather is not an entirely new phenomenon in Australia, the temperatures of the heat waves in February 2017 were exceptionally high. I used to go to the Westfield Penrith Plaza because it had many air conditioners within its shopping spaces.


I used to go to the Westfield Penrith Plaza across High Street during midday to get an experience of their strong air-conditioners. Most of the old people in my neighborhood only came out in the evening when the heat had considerably subsided.


I mostly relied on public transport to access the Westfield Penrith Plaza. Sydney’s public transport is normally busy on weekdays, and it was no different during the period of heat waves in February 2017.


The demand for fans rose to unprecedented levels. Air conditioners were also on frequent use, prompting high demand for energy, and consequential blackouts.


After an alert was issued that Sydney city, would experience a heat wave, most of us used to plan on how to avoid the direct heat in public spaces? Some would carry umbrellas and stay in houses with fans. Personally, I used to stay indoors close to a fan. Whenever I needed to go out, I would pass by an air-conditioned mall to cool off my body. There was speculation that the temperatures would worsen in March too, making most of us to consider planning on how to evade the strong heat forecasted. The demand for fans rose to unprecedented levels. Air conditioners were on frequent use, prompting high demand for energy, and consequential blackouts.

Activity Types

During the period of the heat wave in Sydney city, I often chose to stay indoors doing sedentary activities like watching television and playing chess. I had a friend who was lucky enough to be living near the coast, at Sydney’s Bondi beach. This gave him an easy solution to the problem of extreme heat – he would spend most of the day swimming. The only emerging problem was that the beaches were extremely full, with most of the city dwellers desperately seeking to find a way of cooling themselves from intense heat waves.


I used to live in Penrith, on the other side of Sydney that is far from the coast. We had no option but to brace the nauseating heat with temperatures rising by more than 5 degrees. The heat wave in February hit new high temperatures of 46.9 degrees – a temperature that has never been recorded ever before at Sydney City. We were constantly advised to stay indoors when temperatures got extremely high. I also preferred to visit the Westfield Penrith Plaza across High Street to get access to its expansive air conditioning facilities. I could meet many children who had come to hang out in the air conditioned shopping mall after school. One day I was throwing up due to the discomfort from the heat. It was sickening, and drinking water was less satisfying due to the high environmental temperatures. I had to find a way of washing up and visiting the Westfield Penrith Plaza for an air-conditioned experience that gave me some recovery.

Element 2. Implications for the Design, Planning, and Management of cities during heat waves

Cities such as Sydney that are at risk of experiencing heat waves need to be designed in a more resilient way from both architectural and urban planning perspectives. The aim should be to gain control of the effects of fluctuations in heat by regulating heat gain and heat loss within the city structures. The city design and management should factor in the idea of climatic responsiveness by orienting buildings towards the sun path as a way to improve solar access, designing buildings with natural ventilation and modifying the existing landscape such as vegetation and landforms to align to airflow paths. Some of the passive design strategies that the city can adopt include modifying the form of its built environment to include window designs that allow external shading, focus on building depth, use of massing, and orienting the building in a path with less direct sunlight to borrow the effects of vegetation and other buildings.

Sydney city can also consider implementing a passive solar architecture for its buildings as a way to manage heat from solar radiation and other natural heat sources. The local authorities for Sydney city can consider influencing the internal configuration of the city by zoning spaces that are known to have similar cooling, heating and lighting requirements as a strategy to lower the rate of energy consumption. The aim is to achieve improved management in the amount of natural heat and solar radiation that reaches the surroundings of a building (Wilson, Morgan, Hanigan, Johnston, Abu-Rayya, Broome, Gaskin, and Jalaludin 2013).

The extreme heat and higher temperatures that hit the region around Sydney city had a far-reaching effect on the livelihoods of the city’s residents. The local government equally faced an immediate uphill task in developing mitigation strategies for such heat waves whenever they occur in future. Sydney city had to redesign its public space to cover new contexts, uses and appearance out of cognition that the heat wave experienced had a direct influence in the outdoor behavior of people living in the city.  The local government has since been pursuing the matter as a potential catastrophic event that was brought by persistent climate change (Bambrick, Capon, Barnett, Beaty and Burton 2011).

The heat wave destroyed some of the assets held by the local government. It also interfered with the city’s ability to execute its responsibilities and operations to the city’s communities. The most persistent problem caused by the heat wave was direct stress on water systems in Sydney city, interference with regular power supply, damage to sports grounds, faster deterioration of the city’s infrastructure and assets. Additionally, it caused irregular cooling and heating of the city’s buildings, and negative public health effects caused by higher atmospheric temperatures (Bi, Williams, Loughnan, Lloyd, Hansen, Kjellstrom,Dear and Saniotis 2011).

Going forward, Sydney city needs to develop an increased organizational capacity to handle such occurrences. It also needs to enhance its current partnerships, develop collaborative relationships with other governmental and non-governmental organizations, and improve the levels of knowledge it holds on heat wave management. Sydney city should also consider lobbying the state government to lead the quest for mitigation of natural calamities such as heat waves that are caused by climate change. It can also pursue its own programs to mitigate heat waves and proceed to seek funding and grants from different global stakeholders interested in reversing the effects of climate change.

PART 2 Implications of Urban Heat for your discipline (construction management)

There is need to factor in the effect of heat waves when building structures for modern cities. Construction stakeholders need to design buildings with a perspective of green cities to make them comfortable to occupants during times of catastrophes such as heat waves. One approach for the development of green cities is to include roof and wall greening within the architectural design of a building. Prior to the construction of a city building, the architecture of the building would include facilities such as roof swimming pools, roof plants and wall plans that cover the concrete and shield the building from absorbing intense heat. Such houses stay cool for longer periods as compared to those that are left with exposed concrete.  Construction managers should also commonly design rooftop gardens into new buildings that come up in Western Sydney city. There is also an urgent to design urban environments in a way that includes spaces for social interaction where residents can connect with nature.

When natural ventilation is designed into the city’s buildings, it allows for free air movement that would support interior air cross flow due to the effect of atmospheric pressure changes that generate secondary airflow. Natural ventilation would also support the extraction of heat from the building through the processes of vertical thermal convection. Natural ventilation also allows for pre-cooling of air inflows that get into a building, as it introduces moisture that changes the latent heat capacity of the air.

Natural ventilation can be designed into a building’s structure by pursuing several strategies. First, the building’s design can factor in the use of pressure differences as a strategy to influence the flow of air around it. The other approach would be to place vegetation near a building. Landscaping can also help to improve cross ventilation within a building’s surroundings by directing the flow of beneficial breezes. Other approaches for realizing natural ventilation in city buildings would be to use evaporative cooling, developing a subsidence tower, building a solar greenhouse and a cooling courtyard, building a solar chimney, building a pergola and building a clerestory within the city’s built environment.

When landscaping grounds that are next to buildings in regions prove to heat waves, trees and shrubs should be aligned parallel to one another and the space leading to the entry points and ventilations for the building left open. This would ensure that the line of trees and shrubs build a parallel wall that would guide a wave of beneficial breezes to the building. Alternatively, one line of landscaping trees and shrubs can be used to block airflow and direct it into the building while the other directs air out of the building. This landscaping approach would help in achieving cross ventilation.

Dripper nets media can also be designed into city buildings to allow for evaporative cooling and support the maintenance of low temperatures in the building. Architectural designs for city buildings should also include facilities for pressure drops to bring in pressure differences that would cause free flow of air. They should also include cooling courtyards with fountains of water where air inflows can pass through before getting into the house (Coutts, Tapper, Beringer, Loughnan and Demuzere 2013). This would ensure that fresh moist air gets into the house.






Bambrick, H.J., Capon, A.G., Barnett, G.B., Beaty, R.M. and Burton, A.J., 2011. Climate change and health in the urban environment: adaptation opportunities in Australian cities. Asia Pacific Journal of Public Health23(2_suppl), pp.67S-79S.

Bi, P., Williams, S., Loughnan, M., Lloyd, G., Hansen, A., Kjellstrom, T., Dear, K. and Saniotis, A., 2011. The effects of extreme heat on human mortality and morbidity in Australia: implications for public health. Asia Pacific Journal of Public Health23(2_suppl), pp.27S-36S.

Coutts, A.M., Tapper, N.J., Beringer, J., Loughnan, M. and Demuzere, M., 2013. Watering our cities: the capacity for water sensitive urban design to support urban cooling and improve human thermal comfort in the Australian context. Progress in Physical Geography37(1), pp.2-28.

Wilson, L.A., Morgan, G.G., Hanigan, I.C., Johnston, F.H., Abu-Rayya, H., Broome, R., Gaskin, C. and Jalaludin, B., 2013. The impact of heat on mortality and morbidity in the Greater Metropolitan Sydney Region: a case crossover analysis. Environmental Health12(1), p.98.