Technology and know-how developed at one of Australia’s largest universities will soon be deployed to cool one of the world’s hottest cities.

The High Performance Architecture team at the University of New South Wales has been engaged by the Royal Commission for the City of Riyadh to apply advanced materials and techniques to help cool temperatures in the Saudi Arabian capital of Riyadh.

Sitting on a desert plateau and home to approximately 7.6 million people, the city is one of the hottest in the world.

Summer temperatures can exceed 50 degrees Celsius.

Furthermore, Scientia Professor Mattheos (Mat) Santamouris, Anita Lawrence Chair High Performance Architecture at UNSW Built Environment says, temperatures in the city are increasing due to climate change and rapid urbanisation.

Thanks to its the proximity to the desert, use of conventional materials such as black asphalt and concrete, and limited greenery due to lack of water, Santamouris says ambient temperatures in the city far exceed comfortable levels.

He says the new project will be one of the largest undertaken anywhere in the world and will represent the first time knowledge and technologies developed in Australia will be used on such a large-scale project in the Middle East.

“Our High Performance Architecture team at UNSW has undertaken the responsibility to cool down one of the world’s hottest cities,” Santamouris says.

“Although we have had many projects in large cities and apply our technology and knowledge to overheating cities and the fight against local and global climate change, this is the first time Australian technology and knowledge will be used in such a large-scale project in this part of the world.”

Commencing on September 15, the project will occur in two phases.

During the first phase, the team will use planes equipped with advanced sensor infrared technologies to conduct extensive aerial monitoring in order to understand thermal conditions throughout the city and to identify hotspots where the temperature can reach particularly high levels.

The team will then assist the Commission to implement suitable mitigation measures using advanced materials and technologies.

This will occur using large-scale simulations of the city to understand the potential to apply varying technologies and to prepare the best combination of measures.

The team will collaborate with Australian drone company National Drones.

It will also work with some Saudi companies to add local expertise and to overcome constraints in transferring equipment from Australia during the coronavirus.

Santamouris says the impact will be significant.

“Here at UNSW, we have developed some very sophisticated materials for buildings, roofs and pavements that may present up to 5 to 6 degrees Celsius surface temperature below the ambient temperature,” he said.

“This is important because, for example, when the ambient temperature is 40 degrees Celsius, the temperature of asphalt is 75 degrees. Our materials would be at about 30 to 35 degrees, which is a significant decrease. We will also investigate the potential use of greenery, water, ventilation, earth and many other techniques to reduce the temperature.

“It is expected that the implementation of the advanced mitigation technologies will significantly reduce the buildings’ energy consumption, enhance thermal comfort and improve heat-related health issues.”

Monitoring will be completed by the end of November and whilst mitigation scenarios will be developed by the end of 2020.

The scenarios will then be evaluated and optimised and the first phase completed in April 2021.


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