Travel Log by Bryn: Global Solutions for Local Problems (Part I)

If you’ve been following Climate Resolve’s work, you’ll know that urban heat is a big issue for Los Angeles that we’ve set our minds on solving. You can read more about the issue and our work here.

Once every three years, the international community, working on ways to address urban heat islands, convenes for a conference to share best practices and the most cutting ways to measure success. This year, the City of LA and Climate Resolve were invited to give a plenary talk on the Cool Streets program that we’ve been developing over the past two and a half years.

Honored and thrilled about the opportunity, our deputy director, Bryn Lindblad, packed her bags and is accompanying the City of Los Angeles’ Associate Director for Infrastructure, Jennifer Pope McDowell, at the 5th International Conference on Countermeasures to Urban Heat Islands (IC2UHI) in India.

Travel Log by Bryn: Part I

Greetings from Hyderabad, India, a major technology hub and the site of this year’s IC2UHI conference. Getting here is no joke—it took us over 24 hours, and the only arrival time is at 4am, so we decided to arrive a day before the conference began so that we could be more fresh for all of the learning that’s about to take place.

It gave us a chance to venture out from the tech industry part of town, called HITEC CITY, to the more historic core, where we did a site visit before the packed conference program begins.

1: Urban Observations

As someone who has a strong interest in transportation issues, the first thing that I noticed was that they were constructing all of these raised guideways above the main arterial streets. My hope was that it was to support a transit system, because the chaotic honking taking place below was something I’d rather avoid, if I had the choice.

Unfortunately, I learned that these raised roadways would consist of the same mixed traffic flow as the hubbub below it.

At least they don’t drive around such big gas guzzlers like we do in the U.S., and most seats have passengers in them.

I was pleased to see that many of the supports for the raised level had vertical greenery growing on them. (I later learned from the state’s economic development minister that each urban municipality must earmark 10% of its annual budget for implementing its green action plan, most of which is going towards planting more vegetation.)

In the city center, we made our way through the busy Sunday market crowd to visit this beauty, called Charminar, nicknamed the Arc de Triumph of the East. Its four towers are actually minarets, and there’s a mosque located on its top level.

After allowing a few families to take selfies with us, we turned down many more requests so that we could continue on and make the climb to the top. The view here is of a busy bazaar that surrounds the monument, and on the right, is the Makkah Masjid, one of the largest mosques in India.

*Sigh* Such a shame that just around the corner from all that beauty lies a pile of trash. 😢

2: Site Visit with the Indian Green Building Council

Hyderabad is the site of the Indian Green Building Council (IGBC)’s headquarters, and I’d heard some pretty neat things about the headquarters site itself, so I arranged for us to get a site tour.

Here (from left to right) I, Jennifer (LA Mayor’s Office), Neetu Jain (Director of Panache—more on them later) and D. Raman (retired director of IGBC) pose in front of the plaque designating this site as a Net Zero Energy building and rated at the platinum level in 2006. Ever since, the site has been the location for many green building trainings and has been a source of inspiration for engineers and architects from all over India, as well as other parts of the world.

This display gives a sense of the layout of the building on the site, and also boasts some of its major accomplishments—net zero water discharge, net zero energy with 138 kWp of solar capacity on-site, and 90% day-lit buildings.

Up on the roof, we checked out the bifacial solar PV installation that automatically tilts to face the sun. We took note of the light-colored vertical panels that improve the efficiency of the horizontal PV panels by reflecting additional solar radiation onto them. Same goes for the cool roof below the panels—it reflects additional light onto the PV panels to increase their power production. By cooling the near-surface air temperature, the cool roof maximizes the efficiency of the PV in that way too, since solar panels don’t produce as much energy when they get too overheated.

Panache, one of the main sponsors of the IC2UHI conference, and a pioneer of cool roofs in India, told us a bit about the three layers that they apply to make roofs withstand the elements and maintain their high solar reflectance value. The top coat that they apply has a shininess to it, and serves the purpose of repelling dirt so that the bright white color continues to effectively re-radiate solar radiation in the form of light, rather than absorbing it and re-radiating it as heat.

The IGBC is keen on reducing the energy demands of air conditioning, which is why it has installed this cooling tower onsite. Water is piped up to the top of the tower, where then, through evaporation, it cools the nearby air by about 7º C. Then that cooled air is funneled down to the bottom of the tower, where it enters the building’s air conditioning system, which then doesn’t need to work nearly as hard as it would otherwise to cool down the building.

Next we toured the site’s phytoremediation area, where plants are used to clean the grey water. These plants double as a butterfly garden, and also provide habitat to many species of birds. Pictured here alongside Jennifer is Himanshu Dutta Prajapati, an engineer with the IGBC who conducts many energy audits throughout the country.

It was a Sunday afternoon when we were visiting the site, and he apologized that their on-site snake charmer wasn’t working that day. Usually the snake charmer always accompanies walks to this part of the site, which has proved useful when they’ve encountered a 15-foot king cobra in the past. We heeded his warning and kept our eyes peeled when walking in the grass.

The green of the building’s courtyard sure did make for a peaceful setting. We could easily understand why many of the IGBC’s 110 employees choose to take calls or work on their laptops outside. Not only is the green site good for the environment, it’s good for its workers’ happiness, too.

3: IC2UHI Commences

The night before the conference began, there was a welcome reception so that we could start to get to know one another and get even more excited for the upcoming talks. Here Hashem Akbari, the IC2UHI Planning & Scientific Committee Chair and the original founder of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Heat Island Group, welcomes us all and sets the tone for the conference: a focus on countermeasures to heat, and an emphasis on communicating the research in a way that’s interpretable and useful to city planners and policymakers. Amen to that!

Stay tuned for more…

Climate Resolve