Ehsan Sharifi

PhD research candidate University of South Australia

Principal Supervisor: Professor John Boland  >>
Co-supervisor: Dr Alpana Sivam

Thesis title: 

An Exploratory Case Study of Behavioural Impacts of Urban Heat Island Effect in Public Spaces of Three Australian Cities: Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide


Continuing current carbon emissions could raise the overall surface temperature in Australian cities up to 3.4°C or more by 2070. Australia has experienced five severe heat waves: in 1939, 2004, 2007, 2009 and 2012. Heat waves are becoming more frequent and last for longer in recent years. Such heat stress increases the health risk of spending time outdoors and boosts the need for energy consumption, particularly for cooling during summer.

Cities, however, experience the effect of additional heat storage, which is trapped in thermal mass. This can result in the city centre being significantly hotter compared to the pre-urban surroundings (frequently up to 4.5°C or more). This phenomenon is known as the Urban Heat Island (UHI) effect. Urban structure, land cover, landscape and metabolism are underlined as key contributors in city scale, which foster the storage of sunlight radiation heat, exhausted waste heat and ambient heat in thermal mass of the built environment. Alongside cities’ substantial energy consumption and concomitant heat production, public life in most metropolitan areas is suffering from the UHI effect during the summer, when natural-cooling systems are not effective at pedestrian level.

The current research is designed in three parts to investigate firstly, how heat stress in urban settings can alter humans’ outdoor behavioural patterns; secondly, how such behavioural patterns can alter quality indicators of public space; and thirdly, how heat-sensitive public space and public life can facilitate lower carbon living in Australian context. This exploratory case study will utilise a mixed of qualitative and quantitative methods to develop a better understanding of how the overlap of heat waves and the UHI effect can alter public space quality and urban lifestyle carbon emissions.

The inquiry will use direct observation, thermal photography, filming, coding and mapping techniques for data collection.  Univariate, bivariate and multiple regression analysis will be used to investigate correlations between independent physical variables of the built environment and dependent variables of behavioural patterns in public space.

The proposed research can expand our understanding of how urban structure, land-cover and landscape transformation can facilitate quality and heat-sensitive public spaces in higher density urban settings.


Ehsan Sharifi graduated with a Master of Architecture (2002) and Master of Sustainable Design (2011), focusing on pedestrian friendly urban design. His research interests cover quality, liveability and the sustainability of public space. Previously he worked as a Lecturer at Shiraz University, focusing on the history and theory of urban design and rehabilitation of existing urban precincts. Ehsan was the recipient of UniSA’s President Scholarship and School of Art, Architecture and Design Scholarship in 2012, and a National AAD Travel Grant in 2013 for his PhD at the sd+b Centre. Ehsan is currently an UHI researcher at Zero Waste Centre for Sustainable Design and Behaviour (sd+b) and workshop supervisor of Sustainable Urban Design at the School of Natural and Built Environment at UniSA, Adelaide.


Recent uploads:

Ehsan Sharifi CRC RP2005 >>

Recent publications:

Sharifi, E , J. Boland and S. Lehmann.: ‘Thermal Resilience of Activity Patterns and Urban Greenery in Public Space: Three Case Studies inAdelaide, South Australia’, 7th Making Cities Liveable Conference Montra on Salt Beach, Kingscliff, NSW, 9-11 July 2014, p.162-173. Download Abstract >>

Sharifi, E, C. Philipp and S. Lehmann.: ‘Correlational Analysis of Urban Greenery and Urban Heat Island Effect in Central Sydney’, 7th Making Cities Liveable Conference Montra on Salt Beach, Kingscliff, NSW, 9-11 July 2014, Conference paper p.183-195. Download Abstract >>

Sharifi E and Lehmann S (2012), ‘Urban Heat Island Effect Mitigation in Rapidly Developing Cities’, Proceedings 6th ICBEDC Conference, 4-6 December 2012, Adelaide, ISBN 978-0-646-58814-8, pp. 982-1000.

Sharifi E and S Lehmann.: ‘Comparative Analysis of Surface Urban Heat Island Effect in Central Sydney’Journal of Sustainable Development, Vol. 7, No. 3, 2014, p. 23-35. Download Abstract >>

2014 Sharifi, E. and Lehmann, S.: ‘Local measures to mitigate the urban heat island effect in hot and humid climate: comparative case study of Sana’a, Bushehr and Dubai Marina’, in International Journal of Development and Sustainability, Vol. 3, No. 1 (2014), Japan, ISSN2168-8662 (published Feb 2014), pp. 38-54. Download Abstract >>

Sharifi E, A Sivam, J Boland.: ‘Thermal Resilience of Activities in Public Space: Case Study of Adelaide, South Australia’. Download Abstract >>

Selected bibliography:

Beatley, T, Newman, PD & Boyer, H (2009), Resilient Cities: Responding to Peak Oil and Climate Change, Island Press, Washington DC.

Bosselmann, P (2008). Urban Transformation: Understanding City Design and Form, Island Press, Washington DC.

Erell E, Pearlmutter D & Williamson TJ (2011), Urban Microclimate: Designing the Spaces between Buildings, Earthscan, London.

Gartland L (2008), Heat Islands: Understanding and Mitigating Heat in Urban Areas, Earthscan, Sterling VA.

Gehl J (2010). Cities for People, Island Press, Washington DC.

Girardet H (2008), Cities, People, Planet: Urban Development and Climate Change, John Wiley, Hoboken NJ.

Lehmann S (2010), The Principles of Green Urbanism: Transforming the City for Sustainability, Earthscan, Washington DC.