What are Urban Heat Islands?

What are Urban Heat Islands (UHI) & Causes, and how to reduce the Heat Island Effect?

What are Urban Heat Islands?

Heat Islands are a phenomenon that occurs in urban areas as they experience higher temperatures than the areas around them due to human activity.

The main reason is the presence of structures, such as buildings, pavements and roads, that absorb more heat and release it more slowly than natural habitats such as forest, rivers and lakes.

All of this exacerbates the consequences of climate change in towns and cities and lowers the quality of

life of their inhabitants.


Causes for Urban Heat Islands

  • Dark, high heat-conductive surfaces, such as asphalt
  • The lack of vegetation and green areas in cities, such as urban parks
  • Atmospheric pollution, caused by factories, vehicles and HVAC systems, among others
Image 1

Aerial images from urban city areas without considering green ratios and building density.

Consequences on Urban Heat Islands

  • Higher energy consumption
  • Impact on health
  • Greater atmospheric contamination
  • Impact on the economy
Image 2

Solutions on how to reduce Urban Heat Islands

  • Bioclimatic architecture: including the installation of renewable energy, such as solar panels, to encourage photovoltaic self-consumption or green roofs to mitigate heat absorption, as well as passive cooling elements to create more efficient houses.
  • Sustainable infrastructure: cities need to renew their buildings, roads, bridges, pavements, stations, streetlights, among other elements, so as to bring them into line with the fight against climate change.
  • Green corridors: these areas, which also have different social, cultural or sporting uses, enable natural areas in a city to be connected via extensive swathes of vegetation.
  • Sustainable mobility: It is for this reason that mobility must look to the future and, hand-in-hand with the new technologies, drive initiatives such as Mobility as a service.
  • Green taxes: the taxes on the emission of CO2, of other greenhouse gases and of contaminating substances are designed to penalise non-environmentally friendly behavior and compensate for the externalities relating to the economic development of cities.
  • Eco-neighborhood: we are talking about new urban developments that set out to reduce the impact on the environment by changing the life habits of their inhabitants. This could be done by incorporating more green areas, regenerating public spaces and promoting environmental education. 

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