You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘air pollution’ tag.

To improve air quality we need our streets and particularly our busy roads to be as leafy as Oxford Street Darlinghurst.  I can see no reason other than disinterest as to why our streets cannot look like this.  In terms of room for trees, Oxford Street is comparable to many of our main streets.

The research on air pollution just keeps delivering.    Now it is breast cancer, one of the major cancers in Australia. 

Most of us would know of at least one woman who has or is a survivor of breast cancer.   Researchers from the University of Florida USA who studied almost 280,000 women found that –

  • “women with dense breasts were 19% more likely to have been exposed to higher concentrations of fine particle matter (PM2.5).
  • For every one unit increase in PM2.5, a woman’s chance of having dense breasts was increased by 4 per cent.” See – http://bit.ly/2nGgOMe

Women with dense breasts are 3-5 times more likely to develop breast cancer. Living in polluted areas increases dense breasts & cancer rates.

Cancer Australia says breast cancer is the second most commonly cancer diagnosed & the most common cancer diagnosed in women.

In 2017, it is estimated that 17,730 new cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed in Australia (144 males and 17,586 females).”  They also say 28 men & 3,087 women will likely die from breast cancer this year.  To add something positive here – 90% of people with breast cancer survive at least 5-years post treatment.

This week SUVs & other diesel powered vehicles made the news because pollution from diesel fuel has been found to cause cancer & respiratory diseases.

In 2016 around 9 out of 10 utes & more than half the new SUVs sold in Australia were powered by diesel.  One third of all cars sold in Australia use diesel fuel.

You only need to look around the streets to see that SUVs are an extremely popular car in this area.  This is of concern because diesel creates more pollution than petrol using vehicles. See – http://bit.ly/2nGgOMe

World Health Organisation statistics state that 3-million people die annually die from air pollution related issues & more than 400,000 people die in Europe due to air pollution.   (http://bit.ly/2o03PqI)

In 2014 research from Environmental Justice Australia found that 3,000 Australians die prematurely from urban air pollution annually. You can download a pdf of their report here http://bit.ly/1M0RJoj

With statistics like these & knowing that traffic pollution within a 500-metre radius of a major thoroughfare has been found to

  • cause lung disease & impair lung function in both children & adults,
  • cause cardiovascular illness,
  • cause death   (http://bit.ly/1MKStR8)
  • increase risk of dementia ( http://bit.ly/2hZ961Q)
  • & now increased rates of breast cancer, you would think that getting rid of high pollution vehicles & planting more street trees would be a major priority.
Canterbury Road Hurlstone Park - now part of the amalgamated Inner West Council.   High traffic and very few street trees.

Canterbury Road Hurlstone Park – now part of the amalgamated Inner West Council. High traffic and very few street trees despite there being room for them and power lines located on the opposite side of the road.

This week the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence in London released a report by the Imperial College looking at how to make air cleaner to “cut” death rate because air pollution is a contributing factor in whopping 25,000 deaths a year in the UK. http://bit.ly/2g8JL0B

In a separate article, dated 2nd December 2016, about air quality alerts being issued at bus stops, tube stations & roadsides across London, the mortality numbers are different.  Air pollution is now Britain’s most lethal environmental risk, killing about 40,000 people prematurely each year.”   http://bit.ly/2gcyuMw

The Imperial College report advocates the following interesting changes to lower air pollution –

  • Road speed humps should be removed because they force drivers to accelerate & decelerate thereby causing a rise in of harmful emissions air pollution.
  • Cycle lanes should be separated from vehicles by foliage. [I like this one.]
  • Cycle routes should not be along high traffic routes.
  • Instead of the traditional living room at the front of the house, it should be moved to the back of the house to put more distance from passing traffic. [This poses a problem for those living in apartments built along busy main roads.]
  • Idling any vehicle outside schools & retirement homes should be banned, again because of harmful emissions being added to the air.
  • New schools, childcare facilities & retirement homes should be built away from high traffic areas.

“…… planners must take into account the effect of air pollution when designing speed reduction schemes and that any ‘physical measures’ must be designed ‘to minimise sharp decelerations and consequences accelerations.’”

The study compared one street that had speed humps & a 20mph speed limit to a similar street with the same speed limit, but with road cushions instead of humps.  They found that a petrol driven car driving along the street with the speed humps produced –

  • 64% more Nitrogen Dioxide,
  • 47% more particulate matter &
  • almost 60% more Carbon Monoxide than the street with road cushions.

If this isn’t a great argument to dispense with or to refuse the installation of speed humps, I don’t know what is.  Speed humps are also noisy when vehicles travel over them.  Kerthump!

One thing I did not know was that using the brakes grinds very fine particulate matter which is released into the atmosphere.

Traffic flow improvement was also recommended because where there is congestion there is also an increase in air pollution.

The report also suggested public awareness initiatives such as ‘car-free days,’ charging to enter traffic congestion areas & creating clean air zones.

With the massive increase in development happening across Sydney the issue of managing & lessening air pollution is serious.   I have long been concerned about the stacks that will be popping up all over the inner west when WestConnex is up & running.

If development goes ahead with the attitude of ‘business as usual’ & without doing as much as possible to lessen air pollution, we may find that our city becomes a toxic place to live with weather reports of windy conditions being greeted with joy.  Unfortunately, all that air pollution has to go somewhere, even if it is blown away from our sky.

Wonderful that Marrickville council planted  Queensland Brushbox trees along the Princes Highway Tempe.  Once grown they should help all the residents living close to the highway.

Wonderful that Marrickville council planted Queensland Brushbox trees along the Princes Highway Tempe. Once grown they should help the workers in the shops and all the residents living close to the highway.

Researchers from the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research at the University of Sydney have released their review into the health impact of tiny air pollution particles, also known as particulate matter.  They found that most particulate matter is man-made & “could lead to increase in people reporting to hospitals with respiratory or cardiovascular effects.”

This supports 2010 research done by the US Health Effects Institute who reviewed 700 worldwide health-pollution studies. They found:

  • traffic pollution within a 500-metre radius of a major thoroughfare is likely to exacerbate asthma in children.
  • trigger new asthma cases across all ages
  • impair lung function in adults &
  • could cause cardiovascular illness & death. See – http://bit.ly/1MKStR8

The researchers from the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research recommended that immediate steps be taken to reduce particulate matter pollution from the air.  Although particulate matter can come from plant & animal matter, the majority comes from motor vehicles, mining, power stations & even coal fire barbeques & wood heaters.

“On high pollution days we may detect extra cases of stroke, other myocardial infarctions, heart attacks, for instance, and also PM (particulate matter) air pollution has been linked to premature mortality…..  So it will bring forward those few extra deaths – particularly, we think, in more vulnerable people such as the elderly.”  See http://ab.co/1RP6teY

However, this study from the Lancaster Environment Centre has shown that –

  • “increasing deposition by the planting of vegetation in street canyons can reduce street-level concentrations in those canyons by as much as 40% for nitrogen dioxide & 60% for particulate matter.
  • Deposition rates of nitrogen dioxide & particulate matter to vegetation are much higher than those to hard, built surfaces.
  • Substantial street-level air quality improvements can be gained through action at the scale of a single street canyon or across city-sized areas of canyons.
  • Vegetation will continue to offer benefits in the reduction of pollution even if the traffic source is removed from city centers.” See – http://bit.ly/1UMfVQV

And, “The efficacy of roadside trees for mitigation of PM [particulate matter] health hazard might be seriously underestimated in some current atmospheric models.”

The ability to lower particulate matter is in the power of human beings.  Stop using coal power stations, drive less, ride bicycles & catch public transport more & don’t use coal-fired barbeques or burn wood for heating.

We can plant a tree on our property if there is space & create a verge garden on the street.  We can also lobby our local councils to increase the urban forest, as the Lancaster research clearly demonstrated a drop of 60% for particulate matter between the street & the row of terrace houses & these were only small Birch trees in pots.  Imagine what a good canopy mature street tree can do for us all in cleaning up the air.

Researchers continue to clearly show us that trees are good for people in a myriad of ways.  Our mental health & happiness levels, our ability to learn & our respiratory & cardiac health are just some benefits trees bring.

A street in Marrickville.  No overhead powerlines and footpaths of equal size on both sides of the road.

A street in Marrickville. No overhead powerlines and footpaths of equal size on both sides of the road.  For the benefit of all, there should be street trees along here.  

 

Princes Highway Tempe - as with any highway there is lots of advertising signs.  They could all be made into air purifying devices.

Princes Highway Tempe – as with any highway there is lots of advertising signs. They could all be made into air purifying devices.

Particulate matter increases respiratory disease, heart disease & the incidence of fatal heart attacks. Also, according to the World Health Organisation, particulate matter causes cancer. These are really important reasons why trees are needed along streets & highways.

Development also creates an increase in particulate matter, with truck & other vehicle movement, as well as an upheaval of soil creating dust that in our area at least, is often filled with lead & other pollutants.

In come scientists from the University of Engineering & Technology in Peru who recently developed a billboard that is capable of purifying 100,000 cubic metres of air every day.

The billboard works by inhaling the air & purifying it through a water system before releasing it back into the atmosphere. They say that the billboard can reach a radius of five blocks in every direction.

Inventions like this give me hope for the future.  I would prefer trees, but air-purifying billboards could dramatically improve air quality along motorways & highways.  There are billboards at bus stops, on the backs of taxis & buses, on buildings, along highways, on the side of buildings & even on poles along city footpaths. Imagine is all of these were fitted with the air-purifying process.

Trees are still needed because they sequester carbon & have a positive impact on the mental, physical & spiritual health of human beings, whereas billboards have the opposite effect for most people. Still, billboards are a part of life with advertising everywhere. I wouldn’t mind so much if I knew the billboards were busy working to improve the air quality for five blocks in every direction.

You can watch a 2-minute video about the new billboard here –https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k89rewsIy94

The street trees & the verge gardens along busy New Canterbury Road would be working to prevent a percentage of the particulate matter & other pollutants from getting to the houses.

The street trees & the verge gardens along busy New Canterbury Road would be working to prevent a good percentage of the particulate matter & other pollutants from getting into the houses.  This is much better than no street trees or verge gardens.

A month or so ago I watched a segment on the television program ‘Trust me I am a Doctor’ about how an experiment with birch trees placed along a high traffic street impacted on air quality. See –http://bbc.in/1fjuxnm

The results were surprising, particularly because these were only small trees in pots. The experiment, developed by Professor Barbara Mahar from the University of Lancaster England consisted of twenty-four young Silver birch trees in pots lined up along the footpath beside four terrace houses. The trees were left in place for two weeks. The adjoining four other terraces were also included in the experiment.

Prior to installing the trees, the computer & television screens were cleaned in all terraces. They were then left on stand-by as these items produce static electricity & would continue to collect airborne dust & particulate matter.

At the end of the fortnight, all the computer & television screens were cleaned again. The air pollution collected on the screens was found to 50-60% lower in the four terraces that had the birch trees between them & the road, showing how vital street trees are for collecting particulate matter, dust & other pollutants from passing traffic.

Whether this percentage of protection happens with all street trees is not known, but the birch trees were chosen specifically because their leaves have hairs & ridges, which collect small particles. It may be that birch trees are found to be superior trees at collecting air pollution.

Every tree collects particulate matter & other air pollutants on their leaves, though it may be that some are better at collecting than others.   According to the article, trees with a denser canopy are not as effective at trapping air pollution as are the sparse canopy Silver birch, which allows for free airflow.  Denser canopy trees tend to collect pollution at ground level, where people are.

Rain cleans the leaves allowing the process to start again. Deciduous trees would only provide this benefit while they have leaves.

Vehicle exhaust releases very fine particles of particulate matter (PM), which is breathed into our lungs. From there it enters our cardiovascular system.   A recent government report [English] suggested that as many as 29,000 people a year die because of breathing in too much PM.”

The article lists three ways to limit exposure of particulate matter when outside –

  1. School drop off zones have high levels of particulate matter because of all the idling cars.   “So a quick drop-off, & fewer cars at the school gates is important.”
  2. To reduce your intake on particulate matter when driving, especially when stuck in heavy traffic, keep the windows & vents closed.  Also keep some space between you & the car ahead.
  3. Cyclists are advised to avoid routes with heavy traffic. Pedestrians are advised to walk as far away from the traffic as possible & also avoid walking along streets with heavy traffic. See – http://bbc.in/1tSRh1m

A 2013 study by the Laboratory of Aviation & the Environment at Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that premature death caused by air pollutants was the highest from road transportation – that is vehicle exhaust.   http://bit.ly/1k0tbtH

The humble street tree continues to demonstrate its worth.  They provide the community with many benefits, including better respiratory & heart health.   It is already known that residents in suburbs with fewer trees have poorer health, so increasing the canopy must be a priority.

I can instantly appreciate cleaner air in streets like Victoria Street in Dulwich Hill.  The air smells different.

I can instantly appreciate cleaner air in streets like Victoria Street in Dulwich Hill that have many big street trees.  The air smells different – better.

 

Global water on the left – global air on the right. Certainly not what I expected.

This image come through to me on Facebook today & made me sit up straight & take notice. The small spheres on planet Earth depict the global water & air volume. Frankly I found it a scary image in light of the current & ongoing massive air & water pollution affecting the planet.  It visually depicts exactly what we need to conserve & take care of to keep us alive.  Trees help of course.

It is well worth reading the information from the Science Photo Library, which goes into detail about what the image means. – http://www.sciencephoto.com/media/159214/enlarge

The Smarter Earth Institute has done separate calculations to see if the image is correct & according to them it is.  That also makes for interesting reading.  http://www.smarterearth.org/MeFTWaterAndAir

New verge gardens along Mansion Street Marrickville South - a massive improvement to the streetscape

Marrickville Council has recently replaced the concrete footpath & created verge gardens along Mansion Street Marrickville South. I think they look terrific & greatly improve the streetscape. The street trees now have an opportunity to collect sufficient water when it rains & the gardens themselves should reduce stormwater runoff.  There are no problems for pedestrians as there are wide pathways from the roadside to the footpath placed at regular intervals.

Considering that Marrickville Council spends in excess of $2-million every year just on mowing grass verges, I think verge gardens like this would be a far better use of our rates.  Imagine what $2-million could do each year if it were put into planting street trees & landscaping our streets & parks.  It wouldn’t take too long to significantly green up our landscape.

Research has shown that the greener the environment is, the happier & healthier people tend to be.  Verge gardens are also beneficial for the environment.  They help collect stormwater & pollution from passing traffic & if planted with wildlife-friendly plants, could also provide a food source for our urban wildlife.

Red Flowering gums along a series of verge gardens in Dulwich Hill

We know a good-looking street tree increases the property value of those near it, so it’s only logical that verge gardens & a better-looking streetscape would also improve property values.  Green really does equal money when it comes to real estate, especially in high-density areas like the Inner West.

Of course there are streets in Marrickville LGA that do not have room for verge gardens or where they would be impractical, but many could have them.  If verge gardens are put into the right places, they should not impede pedestrians or people leaving vehicles.  The size of the verge gardens I have seen across Marrickville LGA mean that people pushing prams or shopping trolleys can do so without difficulty.

On the newish verge gardens in Livingstone Road Marrickville, Council has put a concrete path from the kerb to footpath opposite the front gate of all the houses facilitating unobstructed movement from car to house.  This has been repeated in all the other verge gardens I have seen.  Where multiple verge gardens have been created along a street, there is a pedestrian pathway to the footpath every few metres big enough for a wheelchair, pram or trolley.  Council also don’t put plants on the kerb-side of the garden so that people don’t have to exit the passenger-side of the car into shrubbery that could cut their legs or cause them to fall.

My experience of Marrickville Council is that they are highly vigilant when it comes to safety so I can’t imagine them putting in a verge garden where it would cause people problems.

If Council were not spending all their time mowing grass verges, they could be managing the verge gardens instead.  Apparently, once they are grown, verge gardens look after themselves & only need a bit of occasional weeding.  There is always room for other plants so if property owners wanted to add other plants, they could. They just need to be safe plants for passing pedestrians, children & dogs – so no cacti or other plants that could cause injury, nothing that could cause difficulty for passengers leaving cars & no high-growing plants that could reduce visibility for drivers.

I know this is a contentious issue in the community.  I’ve heard arguments against verge gardens that residents should not have to look after the verges, therefore grass verges must continue.  My personal opinion is that verge gardens have much in the way of benefit & there is no reason why Council cannot continue to look after these areas.   Some people say they like grass verges & I appreciate that.  I don’t dislike grass, but I much prefer plants & flowers.

The reality is the climate is changing & as a society, we must make changes that will help lower the urban heat island effect or we will be condemning ourselves to be living in an oven.  Grass verges are less effective at cooling through evaporation than plants & trees. A dried out grass verge can take on the qualities of hard surfaces, not absorbing rainwater well.  Grass requires a lot of water & maintenance to keep looking good & does nothing to help with biodiversity.

These verge gardens at the Arlington Oval intersection in Dulwich Hill are stunning

Street trees along the City of Sydney Council end of King Street Newtown proving it can be done

We know that the particulate matter in air pollution comes from vehicles & coal power stations causes respiratory disease, including asthma in both children & adults as well as heart attack related death. Now 2 new research studies done by entirely different research groups in Germany & the USA have shown that particulate matter also increases the incidence of Type 2 Diabetes.

… the new data provide important & more rigorous evidence that real-world pollution may be tampering with blood sugar control in a large & growing number of people.

The researchers used proximity to roads — where vehicles would be a major pollution source — as a proxy for exposure to fine particulates. Women who developed diabetes were more likely to have lived nearest to heavily trafficked roads.

Compared to the 25% of women living farthest from busy roads, the relative risk of developing diabetes was 15% higher for the 25% of women living closest to major roadways.

There is a growing body of literature suggesting that people with diabetes may be more susceptible to the harmful effects of air pollution.

All the more reason why we need to start planting more street trees, especially on & around main roads. This issue is fast becoming one that will have serious impacts on our health system.  It makes sense to use nature to try to lessen the impact of our 21st Century lifestyle as money spent now may help mitigate the financial cost of disease in the future.

It’s well worth reading the full article – http://www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/63971/title/Air_pollution_appears_to_foster_diabetes

I wrote about this issue here – https://savingourtrees.wordpress.com/2010/06/29/living-close-to-a-main-road-is-bad-for-your-health/ &

https://savingourtrees.wordpress.com/2010/09/21/trees-particulate-matter/

Marrickville Council section of Parramatta Road on right. Leichhardt Council on left

An article was published in Reuters Health this week about research done by Dr Robert A Silverman of the Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New York.  Dr Silverman studied the link between particulate matter (pollution from vehicles & coal-fire power plants) & 8,000 heart attacks in New York City between 2002 & 2006.

“As the levels of particulate matter air pollution increased, more cardiac arrests occurred.”

“When they looked at fine particulate matter (particles 2.5 micrometer or less in size), they found that the risk of having a deadly cardiac arrest rose by between 4 & 10% with every 10-microgram-per-cubic-meter increase in fine particulates.” The current EPA standard of 35 micrograms per cubic meter is grossly inadequate.

“Being indoors may offer only limited protection since small particles can penetrate into buildings and homes.”

As far as I can ascertain, there are only 3 things that stop particulate matter –

  • removing all vehicles from the roads,
  • closing down coal-fire power stations &
  • trees.

In 2003 there were 204 million vehicles on the road in the US.  This increased to 246 million vehicles on the road by January 2010.  In 2009, there were 50 million more vehicles on US roads than 6 years previously, though in 2010, it dropped to only 46 million more. In comparison, China is estimated to have in excess of 70 million vehicles on the road by the end of 2010 & expected to have over 200 million by 2020. Still they wont have caught up with the Jones’s.

Australian statistics were hard to get though I did find that 13.2 million vehicles, including motorcycles, were registered in Australia at 31 March 2003.  I would expect the numbers to be much higher for 2010.

Worldwide it is predicted there will be 1.2 billion vehicles on the road by 2015.

Only the cost of petrol or a severe shortage of oil is going to bring down vehicle use numbers.  You can see why most cities are trying to encourage public transport use, walking & cycling.

As for coal-fired power stations, Australia does not look like it is planning to reduce or stop them with up to 12 new coal-fired power stations planned across the country.  Unfortunately, in NSW they intend to mine for coal in the small bits of land that is Koala habitat.  If you are interested in this – https://www.savethekoala.com/ is a terrific resource & Deborah’s (Tabart) Diary gives regular updates about the Koala situation in Australia https://www.savethekoala.com/deborahtabartsdesk.html

Everyone loves this end of Crystal Street because of the large trees

Lastly, we come to trees. Trees remove up to 60% of street level particulate matter & dramatically improve air quality, which is why their presence is so important in high traffic areas.  The more trees in an area, the better the air quality. Trees also absorb other pollutants such as Ozone, Nitrogen Dioxide & Sulfur Dioxide through their leaves.

A street tree removes 9 times the amount of air-born pollution from passing traffic than does a tree on a nearby property.  Street trees also improve the air that enters people’s homes, especially important as particulate matter penetrates buildings even when the windows are closed.

Large trees provide the most benefit as they provide greater absorption of particulate matter.  Small stature trees that are the perhaps the most common sized tree across Marrickville LGA have far less ability to do this.

The issue of pollution from vehicles is becoming an issue that is too hard to ignore. I am of the opinion that many of our roads in Marrickville LGA are quite dangerous in this regard due to the large volumes of traffic every day. Even small suburban streets that are more like lanes can have in excess of 7,000 vehicles/day.

If the Marrickville Metro expansion goes ahead there will be a potential loss of 142 trees & an extra 4 million shoppers a year. You can just imagine the air pollution around the surrounding residential streets & the planned plaza.

Parramatta Road & the Princes Highway are mostly treeless in the section that is under the governance of Marrickville Council.  It’s not just a matter of beautifying areas that are seriously lacking in aesthetic beauty, it is a matter of public health.

Parramatta Road under the governance of City of Sydney Council

This problem is not going to go away.   I think the NSW state government should allocate money to Marrickville Council to plant trees on these main roads. This is a major project requiring funds that Marrickville Council cannot afford. For this reason it is imperative that the state government fund it as a special environmental project.   It will save the government much greater amounts of money in the long run as people living in Marrickville LGA may just end up in the health-care system.

The population of Marrickville LGA is going to expand. We will all be living & shopping closer together & despite what the authorities say, I believe that the ‘culture of the car’ is not over by a long-shot.  If I am correct, then the issue of pollution-related illness from vehicles is going to spike in the Inner West & we are going to need many more trees to try & lessen the particulate matter that the residents & workers are breathing in.

On 29th June 2010 I posted ‘Living close to a main road is bad for your heath’ which discusses this issue further.

https://savingourtrees.wordpress.com/2010/06/29/living-close-to-a-main-road-is-bad-for-your-health/

To read the article with a link to the research paper – http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20100916/hl_nm/us_pollution_cardiac

Banana 'trees,' perfect for rooftop gardens. For trivial pursuit fanatics: Bananas are not actually trees. Their trunk is a pseudostem that dies once a bunch of bananas have been produced

Right now in major cities of the world enormously good things are happening in regards to built-up areas & green space. They too have growing populations. However, they have made decisions to make buildings more green, sustainable, people friendly as well as environmentally friendly. They are doing this because these buildings are going to be there for the next few decades & rather than continue to build unimaginative buildings that only house people, they are making the buildings also improve the environment while they are standing there.

Melbourne just announced the winner of a rooftop garden competition, the first of its kind in Australia as part of its Growing Up project. The winning rooftop garden was built on top of an old 10-storey office block & included a lightweight polystyrene hill covered in soil & planted with drought-tolerant plants & permeable glass paving to collect rainwater.

The Growing Up project says 20% of Melbourne city’s available space is wasted on unused rooftops. If we see an increase in the number of green roofs in Melbourne, we could see a reduction in the urban heat island effect of up to 2 degrees Celcius. We can also improve biodiversity, air quality & they really are a fantastic aesthetic addition to Melbourne’s space. http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2010/07/15/2954450.htm

An experimental rooftop garden at the University of Melbourne’s Burnley campus has shown an energy saving of up to 40% for cooling the building in summer. This is significant at times of high power prices & the serious issue of global warming.

Another benefit is better stormwater management as the rooftop garden catches & utilises as much as 80% of rainwater, meaning less water going down the drain, less stress on our often old & inadequate drains, less flooding of roads & footpaths & less stormwater running wasted into the sea.

Interestingly, the roof membrane lasts 2-3 times longer when there is a rooftop garden because the garden protects the roof from UV rays & temperature swings.

Green roofs combat the heat island effect dramatically without changing land use.  I’ve heard people query the relevance of the heat island effect saying they like heat, but when the surface of footpaths, outdoor cemented areas & roofs are 27-50 degrees hotter than the air, it becomes a major problem.  In built up urban areas, night time air temperatures can be as much as 12 degrees hotter due to trapped heat radiating out from the surfaces of buildings.  This makes for an uncomfortable time for those living close by as well as higher power bills, poor air quality from increased pollution levels because pollution gets trapped in the heat, as well as elevated greenhouse gases & ground level ozone.

If there is a heatwave, all these effects increase & can result in higher rates of respiratory problems such as asthma, heat stroke & heat-related deaths.

Although green roofs are not common in Australia, in other countries they are an established part of the infrastructure. For example, Copenhagen is about to adopt a policy that makes a green roof mandatory for all new buildings with roof slopes of less than 30%. http://inhabitat.com/2010/06/09/copenhagen-adopts-a-mandatory-green-roof-policy/

Chicago has a Green Roof Grant Program for a while & has over 200 green roofs, covering 232,257 sq metres (2.5 million sq ft). They have a very good picture of what a city could look like – http://www.artic.edu/webspaces/greeninitiatives/greenroofs/main.htm

Nice photos of green roofs in Chicago from 2006 –http://www.inhabitat.com/2006/08/01/chicago-green-roof-program/

90 second tour of a green roof –http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8E278d5d0z0

5 minutes video of research on green roofs & their benefits –

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XxqdPOUoJ90&feature=related

Finally, from the benefits of Green Roofs IGRA World

It is very difficult to find positive arguments for bare or gravelled roofs. Lower building costs for “Non-Green Roofs” in comparison to a Green Roof, are weak arguments considering it is only a short-term calculation. Long-term costs of maintenance & repairs of ‘naked roofs’ are much higher than that of Green Roofs. It has to be considered that roofs belong to the most strained parts of a building; if no precautions are taken & product qualities lack, problems arise quickly. http://www.igra-world.com/benefits/index.php

It would be wonderful if Marrickville Council adopted green roofs as a standard in their new Local Environment Plan, a draft of which is soon to be released for public comment. These types of roofs are likely to be commonplace in the future because built up urban areas are becoming very hot & costly in terms of power use. Businesses will want to save costs where ever they can. The initial outlay is going to be ultimately cost effective because of a 40% reduction in power costs & because a green roof is expected to last at least 20-30 years without maintenance.

Marrickville Council could build on their reputation as a Green Council by encouraging green roofs & green walls at all new major developments & set the standard for other councils to follow.  More on green walls in a future post.

car park reflection

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