Finding the heat in Singapore increasingly unbearable? Well, global warming isn’t the only culprit. Its partner-in-crime? A phenomenon known as the Urban Heat Island (UHI) effect.

The UHI effect is a situation whereby urban areas are significantly warmer than their surrounding rural areas due to the flurry of modern day life that includes your daily commute to school and work, or even simply the act of you switching on your air-conditioner. If this doesn’t rattle you, here’s the bad news: the place you are living in right now is going to heat up even more as Singapore continues on its upward trajectory in urbanisation and development.

But hey fret not—here’s the good news! A team of researchers A*STAR’s Institute of High Performance Computing (IHPC) has developed a modelling tool to depict UHI effects by creating visual maps for areas based on (i) sunlight and shading, (ii) wind flow and temperature, and (iii) noise levels, for a start.

Though not one of the first UHI modelling tools, this is the first in the world that combines all three aspects of sunlight, wind and noise in a single tool to provide an integrated UHI mapping tool customized specifically for Singapore’s topography!

This tool is a one-stop shop that provides the answers to questions such as ‘which is the coolest zone in Singapore?’ or ‘which is the noisiest area in Singapore?’ and ‘which is the sunniest part of Singapore?’

With such information, city planners, housing developers and even town councils can better decide exactly where, and how to build better cities. For example, by making use of data on wind direction, the amount of sunlight, and ambient noise, planners can help shape townships in ways never before contemplated, where the structures fully complement their natural environment!

If you have ever wished that your weekly run in the park could be a cooler experience, or that your children could have fun in the sun at a playground without being exposed to excessive heat, then this urban heat mapping tool could help make your wishes come true!

Another capability of this modelling tool is its ability to pinpoint locations of natural wind passages in different parts of the island so that fewer air-conditioners might be needed to keep these places cool.

Not only does this increase energy savings, it further contributes to reducing our carbon footprints as a nation!

What’s next then? After determining our island’s pain points, we can then move on to address them in simple but effective ways; such as increasing tree cover, installing rooftop gardens and building water features! Perhaps the Infinity Pool on the roof of our celebrated Marina Bay Sands is not simply an aesthetic construction after all!

Speaking of rooftops, even something as easy as changing the colour of roofs can greatly help to mitigate the UHI effect!

According to a study abroad, simply changing roof colours to a lighter shade can enable buildings to use 40% less energy for cooling, which in turn helps cities save about US$175 million per year.

So think about these savings (both to the environment and your pockets) the next time you vote for the colour of your HDB block!

The A*STAR research team led by Dr Poh Hee Joo is currently working closely with Singapore’s Housing and Development Board (HDB), Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), National Parks, as well as other government agencies, to synchronise efforts in building a more comfortable and habitable living environment for Singaporeans. Using the new tool developed by Dr Poh’s team, Singapore can now expect a new urban cool to be delivered by this new urban tool!

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