The Cooling the Commons research programme investigates what it means to live well in cities in a time of climate change. Current urban and housing design is geared towards providing comfort and ‘coolth’ through private air conditioning. This not only contributes further to the energy emissions that drive climate change, it also drives inequality across the city through creating divisions between those who can and cannot afford to be cool.

Cooling the Commons investigates the social and material infrastructures that might better support ‘coolth’ (as opposed to warmth) as climates warm, developing insights into the social, cultural and material contexts that inhibit or support cooling strategies. Cooling the Commons identifies how individual and community capacity to cope with urban heat is constrained or enabled by housing design, housing tenure arrangements, the design of public spaces, networks and everyday material circumstances.

Cooling Common Spaces in Densifying Urban Environments


Team: Abby Mellick Lopes, Stephen Healy, Emma Power, Louise Crabtree, Katherine Gibson,
Vanicka Arora, Western Sydney University; Helen Armstrong, QUT; Cameron Tonkinwise, UTS.

Part of Landcom’s University Roundtable, and in collaboration with Western Sydney University and the University of Technology Sydney this project analysed international examples of urban cooling interventions such as design and planning patterns, and the post-occupancy lived experiences of these places. The research focused on the common urban spaces, such as plazas, walking paths or parks. It sought to establish how open space can be planned so that urban communities can feel comfortable when the city is hot. It also reviewed how uncomfortable heat can impact our use of these common spaces.
Report: Cooling Common Spaces in Densifying Urban Environments
  • Lopes AM, Healy S, Power E, Crabtree L & Gibson K (2018) Infrastructures of Care: Opening up "Home" as Commons in a Hot City, Human Ecology Review, 24, 2: 41-59.
  • Climate Risk? Climate Ready! Flyer

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