In 2014, the Koalas in Australia made global news for hugging trees. But this seems very unusual for anyone who knows that Koalas are tree-dwelling creatures.
What is surprising is the location the koalas choose during different times of the year. But a significant portion of their study was to investigate the effect of climate on land-dwelling animals in Australia, a country that experienced an extreme heatwave in 2014. The Australian scientists used thermal cameras to reveal that, in hotter weather, the animals moved to the lower, cooler parts of the trees, and in winters, they would move up to feed onto the leaves.
When measured, the temperatures of the tree trunks showed that, on days as hot as 39 deg C, they were up to seven degrees cooler than the air, using trees as a heat sink.
Above is an IR thermal image (right side) of a dense landscaped space (left side). The thermal image has many spots in blue and green colour indicating a surface temperature of 24 to 29 deg C. Very few areas can be seen in orange and red, which have temperatures between 29 to 32 deg C.
Large trees have their own protective "microclimate", which is likely to become increasingly crucial to tree-dwelling creatures like koalas if global temperatures continue to increase as predicted.
What about us? Humans? Do we need to hug trees to keep ourselves cool? It sure does help us get rid of 'Nature Deficit Disorder' by releasing happy hormones inside our bodies.
Decreased green spaces inside cities limit us to depend on artificial sources such as - air conditioners and fans to cool us down.
The heat present indoors is released through an outdoor unit, resulting in an artificial rise in the ambient air temperature. This phenomenon, combined with the urban heat island effect, results in a further increase in city temperatures, making it uncomfortable to spend relaxing time indoors and outdoors.
Building an efficient envelope will mitigate this ripple effect to a certain extent. The outer skin of our buildings – the roof and walls (both concrete and glass)- absorbs heat from the sun's rays & high temperatures outdoors and dissipates it indoors. Hence, designing an efficient building envelope/ skin is essential to keep our indoor temperature regulated.
If we consider villas or stand-alone buildings in Hyderabad, most heat ingress is through the building roof. The amount of direct heat entering the wall varies based on the sun path from season to season and can be mitigated by planting greenery.
Conventional constructions materials are often very dark colours—like black, brown and grey. A dark object absorbs all wavelengths of light energy and converts them into heat, so the object gets warm. In contrast, a white object reflects all wavelengths of light. The light is not converted into heat, and the temperature of the white object does not increase noticeably. Thus, dark objects—such as building materials—absorb heat from the sun.
Just as we use sunscreen to protect our skin, exterior paints and materials with High Solar Reflective Index (SRI) or even light coloured surfaces can drop urban air temperatures dramatically, especially during the heat of summer. The surfaces painted with high SRI coatings are called "Cool Roofs". They significantly reflect sunlight and heat away from a building, reduce roof temperatures, increase occupants' comfort, and lower energy demand.
Plants take water from the ground through their roots and store it in their stems and leaves. The water eventually travels to small holes on the underside of leaves, where the liquid water turns into water vapour and is released into the air. This process is called transpiration. It acts as nature's air conditioner.
See it for yourself!
You can feel cooling transpiration at work on a hot summer day. On a sunny day, go outside and find a sidewalk next to a patch of grass. The grass should feel cooler on your skin than the pavement—and that's mostly due to transpiration! Feel both surfaces.
At Organo Antharam, we are exploring a combination of strategies to minimize heat island effect. Above is a video render of Maredu Palle (one of the clusters) covered with farming spaces in backyards and hardscaped surfaces shaded with native trees and plants. The driveways have been detached from each home and converted into productive landscaping. We are exploring high SRI paints to be installed on the one of the flat roof tops at Organo Antharam to measure the impact this summer.
All the above combined efforts help in minimizing the air-conditioning usage inside a space.
Imagine sitting on this balcony and working on your next big presentation or just lounging on a hot summer evening.
Remember to open a window or door to allow the cool breeze inside when it gets too hot, than switching on the air-conditioner. If it gets even more hot, consider switching on the fan and switch to light cool cotton clothing.