UBC's Citizen's Coolkit provides tips to cool your home and neighbourhood

As temperatures heat up around the globe and close to home, UBC’s Citizen’s Coolkit on Climate Change and Urban Forestry provides a do-it-yourself guide to help keep your neighbourhood cool.

Coolkit provides advice to retrofit your home to save energy and add vegetation to cool it down

The Climate Change Coolkit advises people to plant trees in their yards to cool their homes. (Chad Pawson/CBC)

As temperatures heat up around the globe and close to home, UBC's Citizen's Coolkit on Climate Change and Urban Forestry provides a do-it-yourself guide to help keep your neighbourhood cool. 

The coolkit provides advice on planting low maintenance native species of shrubs and trees, retrofitting your home with energy saving features, and reducing your risk to the effects of climate change. 

"[The coolkit is a] package of sort of fun exercises that pretty much anyone can do where they live to sort of learn or teach themselves really about climate change, and what it means for them in their home, and on the block," said Stephen Sheppard, principal investigator for the coolkit.

Climate proofing your home

Sheppard says homeowners can do a lot to increase the cooling potential of their home during the hot summer months, without resorting to energy intensive appliances like air conditioners. 

He highlights technical solutions such as better insulation, energy efficient windows, curtains, white coloured roofs to reflect the sun, green roofs and canopies to shade buildings and walls. 

Sheppard says the biggest thing that can be done to increase the cooling potential of neighbourhoods is to increase the amount of trees and vegetation around, as they're designed to cool through evaporation and by providing shade. 

Back alley before and after the introduction of vegetation. (Google/Iris Jiang)

Health Canada recommends increasing vegetative cover to reduce higher temperatures that occur around urban areas by planting trees on the east and west sides of buildings to block the sun. 

It says natural surfaces like vegetation can absorb a high proportion of solar energy and then release it as water vapour that helps cool the air. 

Backyard before and after the introduction of vegetation. (Google/Iris Jiang)

Recommended trees for West Coast weather

The coolkit recommends the following trees that are easy to maintain and able to survive the future impacts of climate change. 

  • 'Forest Pansy' Eastern Redbud: medium-sized (six-nine metres) deciduous tree with pink flowers and heart-shaped leaves
  • 'Elegant Warrior' Japanese Snowbell: medium-sized deciduous tree with upward foliage and drooping flower clusters.
  • 'Workhorse' European Ho​nbeam: Large deciduous tree (Over 12 metres) with pointed oval leaves, can survive harsh conditions with little care. 
  • 'Pollution fighter' Garry Oak: Only native Oak species in B.C. It can grow to more than 20 metres, improves air and water quality and provides habitat for plants and animals.

With files from The Early Edition

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About the Author

Cory Correia

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Cory Correia is a reporter with CBC Vancouver. Send him an email at cory.correia@cbc.ca

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