Help keep Austin cool! Learn about six ways you can help reduce the heat in our hot city.

Austin summers are hot and expected to get hotter. Extreme heat, like we experience here, can be a serious problem for our health, our environment, our energy and water consumption. Extreme heat disproportionately impacts low-income communities and communities of color. The 6 recommendations to beat the heat can be used by homeowners, urban and roadway designers to name a few.  

The Heat Island Problem

Temperatures get hotter in the city than in rural areas, because the built environment (highways, buildings, parking lots, etc.) absorbs and retains far more heat than materials in the natural environment. As Austin becomes more built up, this “heat island effect” intensifies. Not only does the whole urban core gets hotter, but specific hot spots – like an expanse of blacktop parking lot – can become intolerable.

The heat island effect adds another layer to the temperature increases caused by climate change and associated drought. Local modeling shows that climate change alone could raise our average summer temperatures in Central Texas by several degrees, by mid-century. The hotter it gets, the more people increase their energy use to cool buildings – which only increases greenhouse gas emissions. It’s a cycle we need to break.

Read more about heat island risks.

Cool Spaces: Six Strategies

Fortunately, Austinites can help mitigate the heat island effect by making informed choices when designing, constructing or remodeling a home or other building. Please help Austin reduce the heat-island effect, by adopting these six strategies. Go green and lighten up!

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Cool Roofs

Choosing light-colored or reflective roofing materials over dark-colored shingles reduces your long-term costs and uses less energy. Learn more about Cool Roofs (PDF).

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Green Walls

A green wall is a self-sufficient vertical garden attached to a building. It can help shade the sides of a building that get direct sun. Learn more about Green Walls (PDF).

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Green Roofs

Planting a vegetated area on your roof can help keep surface temperatures cooler than typical dark-colored shingles. Learn more about Green Roofs (PDF).

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Cool Pavement

Light-colored, porous paving materials for driveways, patios, and foot paths stay cooler and help air temperatures cooler in the surrounding area and citywide. Learn more about Cool Pavement (PDF).

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Trees

Strategically planting trees to shade buildings and outdoor areas can help keep temperatures cooler and reduce energy costs. Learn more about cutting energy use with trees (PDF).

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Shading

Shade structures like awnings, pergolas, and umbrellas can help reduce energy use and make outdoor areas more inviting year-round. Learn more about Shading (PDF).

 

 

Check out the Earth-Wise Guide to Cool Spaces available in print at many local nurseries.