Climate change is profoundly impacting our planet and its ecosystems, with cities being particularly vulnerable to its effects. The sheer concentration of population in urban areas and inadequate preparation for increasingly extreme climate events like heatwaves and floods make cities a critical concern. According to a recent study, by 2050, a staggering 1.6 billion people in 970 cities could be exposed to extreme temperatures. Measures such as transitioning to green power and implementing decarbonization policies are essential. However, there is a pressing need to focus on innovative technologies and initiatives specifically designed to counteract the scorching summers that continually shatter historical temperature records.
One city that is experiencing the full brunt of these extreme heatwaves is Seville, in the south of Spain. As climate change worsens the situation, the urgency to find solutions has never been greater. In response, the city is now exploring sustainable strategies, including the implementation of cooling bus shelters.
Cooling bus shelters to address climate change
Waiting for a bus in the scorching afternoon of July can expose anyone to significant thermal risks. In cities like Seville, which experienced a staggering temperature of 47.4º C in August 1946, this danger is all too familiar. However, the city council has embarked on a promising project to address this issue: the installation of innovative “climate shelters” capable of reducing temperatures by up to 20ºC. These shelters ingeniously combine cutting-edge solar energy technologies with timeless solutions like water cisterns. Representing a new generation of sustainable bus stops, these shelters are set to be a part of Seville’s urban landscape starting from 2024.
Developed by a group of researchers from the University of Seville, the new bus shelters feature four main components. First, an underground cistern stores fresh water overnight. Second, during the hottest periods of the day, the water circulates through a closed circuit that releases refreshing air through tiny holes. Third, solar panels on the shelter’s top pump water as needed. Lastly, each structure has temperature and pedestrian detection sensors to optimize performance.
During the hottest hours of the day, as a passerby approaches the bus stop, the pumping system activates, drawing water from the cistern and delivering it to the radiant element within the bus shelter, cooling down the space. This innovative system ensures that the thermal sensation inside the shelter remains between 20º and 24º C, even if the outside temperature soars above 40ºC. Afterward, the water recirculates back down to the cistern and, at night, flows through the shelter’s roof to cool down. For now, the first water tanks are being installed in one of the avenues of the Andalusian capital to start the pilot test in the summer of 2024.
The project developers hope to apply this approach to bioclimatic systems such as smart sunshades and canopies installed in school playgrounds to improve the well-being of students at recess or during sports activities.
Towards more sustainable and decarbonized cities
As cities grapple with the impacts of climate change, they must not only employ technological solutions but also take the lead in embracing sustainability and decarbonization. Apart from adopting innovative approaches to urban mobility, a pivotal aspect will involve the implementation of the Smart city concept, which will optimize the energy consumption of buildings, water management, and traffic control thanks to artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things (IoT).
One of the examples is the work carried out in another Spanish city, Gijón. One of the keys to the project undertaken in the northern city is the comprehensive and smart management of energy supply and management, both electrical and thermal, of public lighting and municipal buildings and facilities, as well as IoT technologies. These measures are estimated to reduce electricity consumption in municipal services and public lighting by 68 %, and CO2 emissions will fall by at least 30 %.
Other solutions to climate change implemented in Gijón include the replacement of diesel boilers with biomass ones, creating energy communities, or developing neighborhood self-consumption solutions. If you want to know more about other urban projects committed to energy efficiency and sustainability, look at this article about an experimental Japanese city that will combine sustainable technologies in all the mentioned areas.