Hottest 100 Not Cool for Schools

Around this time of year the ‘hottest 100’ is released. But unlike the Triple J music countdown, many school kids will definitely not find this figure ‘cool’ this summer.

Instead, the figure released late last year instead refers to NSW Hottest 100 Schools. Surveying a massive 1000 schools across the state, the report by Western Sydney University was put together through ‘painstaking’ measurement – hundreds of hours by academics on long-term hard surface temperatures and collating and analyzing satellite images.

StoneSet has installed thousands of square meters of School Porous Paving Across Australia. We know first hand the difference porous tree surrounds can make for a tree, in growing a healthy, shade providing canopy.  We look further into some examples of how porous paving ultimately improves students learning and prosperity.

This porous paving tree strip at Corpus Christie School at Oak Flats in NSW is a great step forward to creating an urban canopy in the playground.


Urban Heat Islands are coastal

Whats interesting is these hottest schools are all located in greater Sydney, which is a coastal city, and were ranked hotter than hundreds of other inland schools across the state!

Unfortunately, the report shows nearby Western Sydney schools of Liverpool, Merrylands and Granville as comprising some 10% of the schools ranked ranked hottest in the state.

The fact the majority of hottest schools were not located in regional centers such as Broken Hill or Dubbo – is a testament and a wake up call. A testament to regionals schools in their shade and urban greenery design, but a wake up call for Schools, Government and Architects that the Urban Heat Island occurs wherever development does not allow for tree growth.


Hard surface paving essential

Of course the problem is not so quickly solved, simply planting more trees and grass.

Hundreds of children frequent these courtyards and pathways – running and playing daily. The daily compaction would kill most grass, exposing a soil which would turn to mud in the rain and dirt patches quickly be taken by weeds due to compaction.

So its functionally necessary school courtyards consist of hard surface paving, yet we’ve looked at how radiant heat inhibits growth of trees. Porous Paving bridges this gap, allowing water into the ground and support nearby tree growth and the urban canopy.

Porous paving school courtyards and tree surrounds creates a durable, clean, hard wearing surface, that will also stop radiant heat stress affecting tree growth, shade cover and thus young students well being!

One of our best documented examples of this is the porous paving play area at Athena school in Newtown, NSW.

Porous paving ideal for schools

The article quotes research where “each increase of half a degree Celcius over a school year reduced performance in final exams by one per cent.” Whilst air conditioning can alleviate the classroom, outside in the playground is absolutely aided by porous paving tree surrounds.

The lead researcher Dr Sebastian Pfautsch said planting trees is far more effective to cool the schools because it provided shade AND energy absorbtion via transpiration – the process of water being evaporated out of the leaves, again requireing a good healty groundwater source to suck up all that water required.

Architects have specified StoneSet porous paving and porous tree surrounds on hundreds of schools across Australia. Some examples include Mater Dei school in Blakehurst, Kelvin Grove School in QLD and Cooperoo School in Brisbane.

A full list of benefits Porous paving achieves for schools include;

  • Increasing ground water and so canopy growth
  • Choice of natural or lighter colour stone to brighten and naturalise playgrounds
  • Non slip rating for ramps and no puddles in the wet
  • Quick to install, dry within 24 hours
  • Resurface with no demolition cost and hassle
  • Stone look with no loose stone tracked inside to scratch floors
  • High load bearing, can withstand heavy service vehicle (dump trucks) etc.

Porous Paving courtyards

Gone are the days of black bitumen playgrounds radiating heat as kids try to relax at lunch time! Cooler Schools generally choose a lighter, more natural colour stone – this is used soften the hard surface landscape of buildings and areas devoid of grass or trees.

StoneSet porous paving was recently installed at this school in North Rocks. This suburb is located right in the centre of the Wester Sydney region (reported with highest number of the hottest schools)

Installed with an earthy brown Tan stone in October 2020, the natural pebble was chosen over quarried aggregate, to accentuate other natural looking features in the courtyard, namely the synthetic turf and sand stone block seating.

The combination of existing buildings, low natural light due to the buildings and a lack of trees meant StoneSet and synthetic turf was the best surface options.  together with shade provided by sails, to cool this lunch area/courtyard.

Porous tree surrounds key

It’s no secret Trees make a huge difference to reducing local temperatures on extreme heatwaves. This article at the end of 2019 cited two streets in Parramatta – one with 10% green cover, another 30%. The trees meant that street experienced less than half the number of extreme temperature days (where the mercury went over 40) compared with the less shaded street.

The New South Wales government is committed to urban greening with its strategy of planting 5 Million Trees by 2030 and increase the urban canopy from 16.8% to 40%.

The AILA reports “Already results indicate that 62% of urban local government areas now have more urban green cover than they did in 2016, however the overall decline in green space persists with 69% or urban spaces having seen a decline since 2013.”

These trees will benefit from all the rain that falls on these natural stone paved retaining wall strips, during a rain event.

StoneSet Porous Tree surrounds have been critical to the success of a healthy urban canopy, with council areas such as North Adelaide SA, Riverstone NSW, Manly NSW, Fitzgibbon Chase QLD, and hundreds more tree surrounds Australia Wide.

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