Cool roads cool our cities

A cool road: pale road surface, mix of edible and decorative trees and plants, shade over 50% of the road

A cool road: pale road surface, mix of edible and decorative trees and plants, shade over 50% of the road

What are cool roads and why do we need them?

On average our suburb is 6 degrees warmer than it should be. This is called ‘heat island effect’. Of course, this problem isn’t unique to Chippendale – many cities and suburbs all over the world are too hot. These high temperatures are created by the absorption of heat from dark-coloured roads, roofs and other human-made surfaces.

This is shown in the thermal imaging photos of Chippendale taken by the City of Sydney in 2009. The scale moves from blue to red, where the darkest blue is less than 23 degrees and the deepest red is over 33 degrees. It’s the road surfaces that stand out in this image. They consistently hit the top of the thermal scale over 33 degrees.

In Chippendale, 24% of our suburb is made up of road surfaces. Reducing road temperatures is an important strategy for cooling our suburb and our city. With cooler roads, residents and businesses are a step closer to making a difference through other initiatives such as green roofs, installation of heat-reflective roofs & building surfaces, tree planting and other energy efficiency measures. With lower heat levels, buildings are cooler and air conditioning usage lower. Saving the planet saves money at the same time.

So how do we cool our roads? The good news is it’s quite straightforward:

  1. Upgrade the surfaces of our roads so that they reflect rather than absorb heat
  2. Increase tree cover through biodiverse tree planting schemes

By cooling our roads, we can achieve big improvements to everyone’s quality of life. These simple initiatives can:

  • Save energy: costs are likely to drop by 5-10%
  • Save lives: premature death from heat can raise mortality rates by between 25% and 45% on hot days
  • Bring back moisture: this improves air quality and nourishes plant life
  • Help nature flourish: by bringing temperatures down we encourage the biodiversity that our ecosystems need to function and flourish

Sustainable Chippendale has been advocating action to cool our roads since 2010. More information on the steps that can be taken to cool our suburbs can be found in the Plan I made to make Chippendale sustainable, called, The Sustainable Communities Plan; see  Section 5 titled Getting Around & Section 4 Urban Heat Island Effect Mitigation from The Sustainable Communities Plan created in 2010.…


Wondering how you can cool your own street? 

Here’s how:

1    Download the app called, Snap, Send, Solve on itunes or on google play
2    Take photos of your street and send it to your local council with the message: Please make this road cool
3    Then post your photo and message on my blog here or my facebook page:



We can cool our cities by cooling our roads; join me and we can cool our cities by 2 degrees by 2020 – now, that’s a plan, isn’t it?






3 Responses to “Cool roads cool our cities”
  1. Yoyce Jones says:


    My name is Yoyce Jones, assistant editor of, a non-profit reporting on innovations and trends in cities. May we have permission to use the photo above with attribution? We’re at deadline. Thank you. Kindly, YAJ

  2. Petra Liverani says:

    Even “cooler” roads? How about solar roadways? A couple in the US were funded by the federal highway agency to develop roads (and other pavement surfaces) made from extremely strong interlocking tempered glass tiles (apparently able to carry the weight of vehicles weighing 250,000 tonnes) housing PV technology, LEDs and circuitry that makes the panels sensitive to weight and temperature. Thus, they can generate electricity, display signs and line markings, warn motorists of the presence of an animal ahead, keep snow off the roads, and do other useful things. The highway agency has stopped funding but the couple have raised over $1.8 million in a very short space of time on indiegogo (the largest amount ever raised for a single project with the crowdfunding site). I don’t know if the cost will ever prove feasible but if it can work costwise it’s a wonderful development.

  3. Josephine says:

    No question mark required, the ripple effects of cooling our roads is a stroke of genius, one road at a time.

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  • Michael Mobbs

    Michael is a former Environmental Lawyer who is uniquely placed to consult in four main areas:

    • Sustainability Coach and Speaker,
    • Sustainable Urban Farm Design greening, watering and cooling the cityscape, roads, parks, suburbs,
    • Major Projects Consultant Commercial and Industrial,
    • Residential Sustainability Consultant.
    For permission to re-print any articles or to book Michael for a speaking engagement go to Contacts. Please ensure all quotes from Michael's blog include a reference to