A practice for heat adaptation in three of Vienna’s hottest areas converted urban streets to Cool Streets, offering water mist sprayers, seating, and neighbourhood-fostering features for four weeks.
As a result of heated concrete surfaces, the city is no longer able to cool off to a sufficient degree, resulting in heat islands. These areas have proven to be a problem, above all for residents of densely built-up districts where cool spaces to spend time are lacking.
Birgit Hebein, Deputy Mayor and Executive City Councillor in charge of climate protection, initiated the project for cooling urban streets in August 2019, with three Cool Streets in the 3rd, 10th, and 16th Municipal Districts. In neighbourhoods particularly affected by heat, one well-shaded street was declared car-free for four weeks. Cool Streets create spaces where city dwellers can send time outside of their stuffy flats – an open-air living room. Cool Streets also offer water mist sprayers, seating, and neighbourhood-fostering features. The streets were given to the citizens – they were free to use the space for self-organised events.
Reacting to local needs
This project was evaluated from the perspectives of climate research and social sciences. The socio-scientific evaluation highlights the reactions of residents to the pilot project: 518 locals were interviewed; 87% of them viewed Cool Streets as a positive measure to combat summer heat; 66% stated that the Cool Street efficiently balances the heat inside their flats; and, 92% hoped for a repeat of this project. In addition, the loss of parking spaces was no problem for 92%. The project also resulted in a cooling effect of between 1.3 and 5 degrees Celsius. More than half of the 518 respondents remarked that the heat became more bearable for them because of the Cool Streets project. This was evidenced by the outcome of a climate-specific evaluation. Due to the success of the 2019 pilot project, the practice will be continued in 2020.
Public space is so precious and when it’s free from cars, people use it.