Heat Island Effect – The Alarming Issue of Mega Cities

Several cities in India this year witnessed unprecedented soaring temperatures during summer and even recorded deaths due to heatwaves. The discomfort and health problems caused by extreme temperatures is a pressing issue that needs to be addressed seriously and urgently. According to the Indian government-backed research the two major cities, Delhi and Mumbai, are becoming “urban heat islands”, with significantly different climates to their surrounding rural areas.

Heat islands are created due to the use of heat-absorbing construction material and poorly planned building designs. With the growing significance of smart cities, there has been a tremendous rise in the concretization of buildings.

The upcoming smart city plans have brought in its wake huge layout of closely spaced multi-storeyed buildings. These concrete buildings form canyons that trap the heat between the walls and lead to warming up of the buildings. A vicious cycle is created in the cities, where the use of air conditioning adds up to the heat waves and pollutants, leading to heat-emissions. Many commercial complex and corporate offices use glass as a facade material which adds on to the heat inside the building & more usage of air conditioning.

According to the TERI Research if this phenomenon of heat Island is not addressed and resolved it may “eventually result in unprecedented repercussions such as heatwaves, health impacts, human discomfort and increased mortality among the elderly.”

The need of the hour is to take corrective measures to control the heat-island effect. One of the ways to counter the harmful heat emissions is to use nature-friendly, reflective and cool construction materials. Building water-retentive pavements and using reflective sloping roofs too can help us combat surface heat.

EcoPro is one of the latest breakthroughs in the construction industry that can help curb the heat island effect. It brings in the benefits of innovative and sustainable building material like fibre cement board, to build houses, roofs, etc. These fire resistant boards are ideal building solutions as they are weather-proof with sound thermal properties.

The fibre cement sloping roofs can help to create a cool effect as it facilitates less heat absorption. Individual houses like bungalows and row houses can use roofings of this material to achieve internal as well as external temperature balance.

Ventilated facades are also good alternatives for glass facades that lead to heat traps. These external coatings create an air chamber between the insulation and the coating. It improves the thermal resistance of the external wall by reducing heat losses and infiltration rates. There are some other benefits of ventilated facades that make them the right choice for architects and the home-owners like energy savings(by cutting down the use of air conditioning), acoustic insulation(reducing noise), protection against dampness and rain and finally, camouflaging the ugly building wires, plumbing installations etc.

Apart from concretization, there are several other factors like the rising number of vehicles, high usage of glass for the facade, depleting green cover, loss of wetlands and air pollutants that are contributing to the heat island effect. According to the scientists’ urban heatwaves are likely to increase in frequency and intensity. Hence, it has become imperative to adopt a holistic approach with well-planned strategies for sustainable urbanization to contain heat stress.