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Thinking SMART: Web site targets heat islands

August 10, 2006

If this summer’s heat wave seems like one for the ages, then a new Web resource from ASU’s National Center of Excellence on SMART Innovations for Urban Climate and Energy, will make for a handy guide on the environmental, health and energy impacts.

It also will help illustrate what is being done to help mitigate the unrelenting heat.

The site, on the Web at (, provides information on research, education and resources available for making urban regions better places in which to live by making them more sustainable – and less vulnerable to the “heat island” effect.

“What people in many cities are finding is that there is little respite from the sweltering heat of summer, even at night when the sun goes down,” says Jay Golden, co-director of the ASU center. “The reason is the urban heat island effect. During the summer, higher surface and air temperatures caused by human built structures can result in extreme and sustained heat waves, which pose a significant risk to the urban population through a complex system.

“Heat waves kill more people in the United States than all other natural disasters combined. They also raise air-conditioning use and the risks of power outages caused by peak electricity demands, worsen air quality by promoting ground-level ozone formation, and impair water quality by heating storm water runoff, causing thermal shock for aquatic life.”

The center’s new Web site has listings of research projects on new materials and building technologies designed to mitigate the heat island effect. This includes work on new road pavement materials, building materials, building technology, energy, and health and environment. The site also has listings of resources, including the Sustainable Materials and Renewable Technologies (SMART) database, case studies, models, articles and journals.

“There is a wide range of research and a variety of resources that are available at the new Web site,” says center co-director Kamil Kaloush. “It is highly informative and provides links to additional contacts for further information. It shows that urban heat island effects, sustainability and new ideas for making urban areas more livable are being pursued in all corners of the world.”

The National Center of Excellence – supported by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, regional governments and industry partners – works with academic and industrial researchers operating on the cutting-edge of technology. It brings together leaders from industry, academia and government to advance technology-based solutions that lead to economic growth and a cleaner environment in support of an urbanizing world.

Housed in a newly constructed, state-of-the-art-facility on the ASU Tempe campus and part of the Global Institute of Sustainability in partnership with the Ira A. Fulton School of Engineering, the National Center of Excellence draws transdisciplinary faculty, researchers and students at ASU. Researchers at the center partner with other leading researchers from Kings College, London, the University of Cambridge, U.K., Tec de Monterrey, Mexico, the Indian Institute of Technology-Delhi, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Cape Town, South Africa, to provide students, faculty, industry and governments with a wide range of educational and research opportunities.