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Urban heat islands

For the last 100 years, scientists have been exploring the reason why temperatures are so much warmer in the city compared to the rural areas surrounding them. This phenomenon, called an urban heat island, is a direct result of our activities. 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.

Choose lighter stone colours. Dark stones using black or dark grey pigments have been very popular for the last decade. Like wearing black clothes on a sunny day, dark stone choices heat up way more than the lighter options. While going with a white paver might be better to displace heat, the idea of the sun bouncing off of the surface already makes my eyes hurt just thinking about it. 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, allowing for some interesting patterns in the design.

Incorporate shade into the design. By increasing the amount of permanent shade on the patio, you reduce the amount of sunlight and heat that the stones actually absorb. 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 (Rona.ca) 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!

Simply adding an outdoor rug is also an effective way of displacing the heat. While stone may absorb and hold the warmth of the sun, the synthetic fibres 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.

 

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