Heat Islands May Not Be So Bad After All

Emily Badger reports on pioneering research that is looking into ways to utilize the heat trapping properties of asphalt, rather than fighting it.

The heat attracting properties of asphalt are common knowledge to anyone who's attempted to dash from the beach to their car on a hot summer day with their flip-flops in hand, and not on their feet. And, of course, the heat trapping effects of urban agglomerations of asphalt covered surfaces, known as the urban heat island effect, are well know to many planners.

As Badger notes, while a lot of work has gone into figuring out how to combat the effect, Rajib Mallick, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts, and other researchers are working on ways to harness the heat contained in asphalt and put it to productive uses.

"Asphalt, for instance, could heat water coursing through a series of pipes embedded in the road. And that process would both cool street surfaces and send their heat somewhere useful...This heat could also be converted into different forms of energy. Other liquids that turn into vapor could be used to drive turbines generating electricity."

"Mallick and his colleagues have not only done the theoretical work to envision these possibilities, they've begun testing them as well with support from both the state of Massachusetts and the National Science Foundation," writes Badger.

What about just paving with something less heat intensive than asphalt?

"Economics drives everything," Mallick says. "And if you think about it, asphalt is very cheap. You can't find a cheaper material to build pavement. Asphalt is a byproduct of petroleum, so as long as there will be petroleum, there will be asphalt."

Full Story: Instead of Lamenting the Urban Heat Island Effect, Why Don’t We Harness It?

Comments

Book cover of the Guide to Graduate Planning Programs 4th Edition

Thinking about Grad School?

New! 4th Edition of the Planetizen Guide to Graduate Urban Planning Programs just released.
Starting at $24.95

Prepare for the AICP Exam

Join the thousands of students who have utilized the Planetizen AICP* Exam Preparation Class to prepare for the American Planning Association's AICP* exam.
Starting at $209
Book cover of Where Things Are from Near to Far

Where Things Are From Near to Far

This engaging children's book about planning illustrates that "every building has its place."
$19.95

Essential Readings in Urban Planning

Planning on taking the AICP* Exam? Register for Planetizen's AICP * Exam Preparation Course to save $50.
$369 includes free shipping!