In February 2019, the European project Cool Towns started in Middelburg (NL). A collaboration between 13 partners to reduce heat stress in cities. The partners work on solutions at street level to combat heat effectively. The project is supported by the European program “Interreg 2 Seas”. After almost one year of collaboration, it is time to draw up an interim balance. And to look ahead to the partners’ plans for the coming period.
Climate change causes warmer summers with more frequent occurrence of heat waves. In many small and medium-sized cities in the 2 Seas area, this causes heat stress and has an impact on, among other things, public health, labor productivity and well-being. There is a clear need to reduce heat stress by making physical adjustments to the living environment. However, cities still lack essential information and tools for a heat-resistant design of the outdoor space.
Heat stress model
In the Cool Towns project, the current heat stress of the partner cities will be accurately mapped and the impact of various intervention scenarios modeled.
The team from the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (NL) has made a first version of the heat stress model and with that developed the first heat stress maps for Breda (NL) and Ostend (BE). The next steps are to create the first set of heat sensitivity maps, as well as heat stress maps for the remaining other partner cities. The expectation is that this will be ready by the end of 2019 / beginning of 2020.
To gain insight into the current thermal comfort offered by the pilot sites during summer days, the Amsterdam University of Applies Sciences (NL) drew up a measurement protocol. Based on this, the cities of Amsterdam (NL), Ostend (BE), Breda (NL), Middelburg (NL) and the province of East Flanders (BE) took measurements in July and August and interviewed the users of the pilot sites. The first round of measurements also served to test the heat stress model and provide the decision-making tool with practical information.
Online decision tool
In the second phase of Cool Towns, the partners will develop an online decision tool for municipalities and cities, which incorporates various measures for heat resistance with essential decision parameters (such as the extent of heat stress reduction and costs and resources). The tool will be constantly refined based on the data from seven pilot projects in the different countries.
As part of the planning for this, heat stress workshops were held in Saint-Omer (FR), Breda (NL), Ostend (BE), East Flanders (BE) and Middelburg (NL).
An important part of Cool Towns is the realization of seven pilots in the participating municipalities and provinces. The aim of these pilot projects is to implement a variety of measures to reduce heat stress in public spaces and to demonstrate their operation. In this way, the online decision tool can also be refined with the data from the pilots. Together with Sioen Industries (BE) and GreenBlue Urban (UK), the partners are investigating which combinations of measures and locations in their municipality / province can be used as a pilot. For example, in Ostend (BE) the plan is to transform a parking space into a green oasis in the city center and Breda (NL) wants to realize a water playground in the city center. In the province of East Flanders (BE) efforts are being made to make schoolyards greener and Middelburg (NL) will make the area surrounding the station greener.
Cool Town project lasts for 48 months and brings together leading European research and academic institutions, government organizations and industries from climatology and climate adaptation domains. The Cool Towns partners are the municipality of Middelburg (NL – Lead Partner), the municipality of Breda (NL), Province of East Flanders (BE), municipality of Ostend (BE), Southend on Sea Borough Council (UK), University of Greenwich (UK ), Kent County Council (UK), Université de Picardie Jules Verne (FR), GreenBlue Urban (UK), AUD Agency for urban planning and development of the Saint-Omer and Flandre Interieure region (FR), Amsterdam University of Aplied Sciences (NL ), Sioen Industries (BE) and Community of the Conglomeration of St. Omer (FR).