School children in Western Sydney may not be able to spend any time outdoors in future due to lack of adequate shade options and unbearable heat.
Lead researcher from Western Sydney University’s School of Social Sciences, Sebastian Pfautsch, has prepared the first comprehensive School Microclimates report, based on more than 100,000 heat data points taken at a local public school last summer.
A lack of tree canopy coverage and man-made shade options resulted in surface temperatures of more than 70 degrees Celsius.
Mr Pfautsch said it’s “hazardous and dangerous”, after hearing of school children being sent home with nose bleeds due to the extreme heat conditions.
If outdoor areas in schools are not designed differently, Mr Pfautsch says climate change will increasingly prevent children from playing outside.
“We know about these hot surfaces, we are trying to mitigate heat now in many different ways, but schools are just not on our radar yet,” Mr Pfautsch told AAP.
“We are talking about the age of indoors we are seeing playgrounds are now being moved indoors … but these are plastic environments, there are no birds, wind, trees or breeze, and are quite smelly.”
He suggested more trees would provide ideal shady coverage, and could be integrated with modular shade structures.
Schools were increasingly cutting down trees after a young girl was killed by a fallen Eucalyptus limb.
Another strategy could be transplanting mature trees that would be felled to make way for large-scale developments, and instead re-planting them in schools.
“That way you don’t need to wait a decade for the shade, it’s already there,” he said.
The NSW government has already committed $500 million to installing air-conditioning in school classrooms, however Mr Pfautsch said outdoor designs were not taking into account the changing climate conditions.
“Nobody is addressing it, nobody is designing schools to be physically heat smart when it comes to surface materials that are used and the shade that is provided,” he told AAP.
Mr Pfautsch pointed to one study which showed up to 50 per cent of children’s daily activity was happening at schools, and without space to run around the problem of obesity would also worsen.
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