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Urban Heat Islands

Urban Heat Islands

In case you haven’t noticed, its been steadily getting warmer across the planet, even more so in our urban centres as we pack in more people into smaller spaces. Called an urban heat island, scientists have been studying the effects of urban development on temperature patterns. Unfortunately, with global warming, this increased heat continues to go up in areas with lots of stone and concrete like parking lots and even in our own backyards. Even though more cities are investing in green spaces and promoting green roof technology, several online sources state that over 70% of all of the surfaces that we are currently installing in our landscaped spaces are concrete, pavement, stone or pavers. We are turning our own backyards into mini urban heat islands! Now if you have a patio, or are thinking of installing one, then there is good news. There are simple ways to reduce the heat in your backyard and still have a beautiful space that will last for years and increase your home’s value.

Incorporate shade into your backyard design. I’m a big fan of the pergola with large fabric panels that can be installed every spring and removed before the snow. I’ve seen several options available for sale, but if you are planning on building your own, just make sure to add some grommets in the fabric to stop the rain from accumulating in swales of the cloth. If a pergola is not for you, you can create the same effect using a large umbrella. I’ve been impressed with a lot of the new technology in umbrellas lately. Solar-powered and cantilevered with a good heavy base ( not only allows you to create shady all day long, they also charge in the sun, creating free light wherever you need it at night! Either option is a great choice for reducing the amount of sunlight that is absorbed by your patio stones.

Choose lighter stone colours. Landscape design has been using a lot of dark coloured stone in backyard for both the design aesthetic, but also because they are easier on the eyes on a bright day. Unfortunately, like wearing black clothes in full sun, dark stone choices heat up way more than the lighter options. Rinox’s Proma XL stone has become very popular for designers because it is a lighter colour option but also because it has a speckled texture which is better for glare and for heat distribution.

Another easy way to deal with an existing concrete patio is to add an outdoor rug. While stone may absorb and hold the warmth of the sun, the synthetic fibers of outdoor rugs don’t! Even the dark rugs hold significantly less heat than a dark patio stone. They also act as a barrier between the sun and your patio, preventing it from heating up in the first place. Now you can have the dark flooring look outdoors without roasting your guests.

This summer is going to be a hot one across the country. Lets all take some precautions in our own outdoor spaces to help reduce the heat and avoid creating our own urban heat islands.

Carson Arthur is an international landscape designer with a focus on environmentally friendly design. Throughout his 15-year television career, Carson teaches homeowners how to raise the value of their homes through outdoor renovations. He is part of the Cityline team; writes a column for the Halifax Chronicle Herald and the Sun media group including the Toronto Sun about outdoor design and appears regularly in a variety of magazines with guest articles. He is the North America outdoor design editor for Outdoor Lifestyle magazine; the outdoor expert for Terra Greenhouses; Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate; and the author of the sold out book Garden Designs for Outdoor Living with a new book scheduled to hit the shelves spring 2018.

His credits include; the host of HGTV’s Green Force and Critical Listing; the Gemini nominated Room to Grow on Global, ION and the Discovery network; Better Home’s and Garden’s Home, First Home on the Hallmark Channel in the U.S.; and an expert on HGTV’s blockbuster; Home to Win. Currently, Carson’s programs can be seen on every continent in the world.

Carson now represents Canada as the international ambassador for Save the Children. His expertise in growing food will help end the cycle of poverty for children all over the world by spearheading a Canadian initiative of adding agriculture to education called Fresh For All.