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Playground prototype keeps kids cool and safe in Australia heat

Case Studies | March 1, 2021 | By:

Communities in Australia face unprecedented heat, drought and bushfire weather conditions, according to Steve Christou, mayor of Cumberland, a suburb of Sydney. The goal of the research behind this prototype UV Smart Cool Playground is to create safe spaces for children and their families to play. Photos: Western Sydney University.

Western Sydney University heat research has guided the refurbishment
of a playground in the Sydney, Australia, suburb of Cumberland, resulting
in a first-of-its-kind UV Smart Cool Playground.

The project brought together government, industry and research partners, including shade solutions manufacturer Alfresco Shade of Riverstone, Australia, and fabric supplier GALE Pacific, to address climate change and associated hotter summer temperatures in western Sydney, according to a university press release.

“The UV Smart Cool Playground project has delivered Australia’s first prototype playground to address increasing temperatures which are leaving our playgrounds unplayable,” said Dr. Sebastian Pfautsch of the university’s School of Social Sciences.

“We’ve found communities in western Sydney experience extreme heat more frequently than previously known, with temperatures of play equipment hitting nearly 80 degrees Celsius [176 degrees Fahrenheit],” he added. “Heat-smart playgrounds can provide a safe and enjoyable place; they can be used longer in summer and act as a cool refuge for the community. The adaption of existing playgrounds is an important way to reduce urban heat loads.”

According to Pfautsch, unshaded rubber found in many playgrounds across Australia can reach nearly 100 degrees Celsius (212 degrees Fahrenheit) on a warm day. By implementing cooling strategies, including the installation of shade sails, temperatures can be reduced by half.

The playground demonstrates how heat-smart design choices and cooling strategies can be implemented in existing playgrounds. The project was supported through grants funded by the New South Wales Government.

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