City dwellers would have noticed that the ambient temperature is always a few degrees higher than what the local weather report tells them. This difference is felt even more when they visit a rural area where the temperature is definitely lower than their urban environments.

What they are experiencing is the ‘urban heat island effect’ – a phenomenon that occurs when urban areas are covered with paved and dark coloured surfaces that absorb and store heat resulting in higher temperatures. Buildings built close together work as heat insulators, raising the temperature significantly.

The rising heat in urban environments can cause a number of harmful heat related illnesses such as heat stroke and heat exhaustion, which can be fatal. Young children and older people are particularly susceptible to extreme heat events. Heat waves in Australia can be very dangerous especially in major cities experiencing heat islands. People who cannot afford to live in temperature controlled environments as well as workers employed in outdoor jobs are also vulnerable to these heat waves.

The urban heat island effect contributes to increased energy consumption from the higher reliance on cooling systems, leading to elevated carbon emissions and greenhouse gases. Carbon emissions pollute the air we breathe, causing respiratory problems and general discomfort.

Built-up urban environments drastically impact water quality. Urban stormwater runoff picks up a number of pollutants when running across the urban landscape before heading into the sewers and returning to the ocean. If the water has been significantly heated from the hot surfaces, it can raise the water temperatures once it returns to the ocean, enormously stressing the aquatic ecosystem.

Premier Pavers & Stone recommends their permeable Hydropavers as a possible solution to counter the urban heat island effect. Hydropavers are permeable pavers made from crushed ceramic tiles, and can potentially lower the impact of the urban heat island effect due to their ability to absorb and store water, thereby providing a cooling effect. If large areas are paved using permeable pavers, the cooling effect would be immense and will significantly lower the temperature.

Consequently, when the urban temperature drops, the energy consumption will also significantly decrease with people needing less air conditioning in their environments. This will reduce carbon emissions and greenhouse gases, lowering air pollution levels and generally improving overall health and human comfort.