Gertrud Hatvani-Kovacs

Doctoral research candidate University of South Australia

Principal Supervisor: Professor John Boland
Co-supervisor: Dr Conrad Philipp

Thesis title: 

Urban microclimate: retrofitting Australian precincts for heatwave resilience


As a result of intense worldwide urbanisation, 50.5 per cent of the global population lived in cities in 2010; it is predicted that 70 per cent of people will be urban residents by 2050 (WHO and UN-HABITAT 2010, 9). Although the socioeconomic advantages of urban living have attracted people to the cities (UN ESCAP 2013, 8) urbanisation also has negative impacts, such as social inequality, the loss of natural environments and air pollution (WHO and UN-HABITAT 2010, 7–10). Another adverse impacts of urbanisation is the discernible temperature difference between urban and rural areas, which is known as the urban heat island effect (UHIE) (Gartland 2008, 2).

The detrimental effects of the UHI reduce significantly both the efficiency and liveability of cities through the decreased use of public space, by endangering the ecosystem and causing adverse effects on the mental and physical well-being of the urban population. Recent studies have researched widely the physical and health impacts of heatwaves on cities and their inhabitants. (Koppe et al. 2004, 15–23; Gartland 2008, 140–151). Less research has been conducted on the interaction between city dwellers’ capacity to adapt to heatwaves and the key indicators of heatwaves. Since urban inhabitants are not only contributors to – but also the victims of – UHIs, they are exposed to a feedback loop with negative impacts on their health and productivity. Furthermore, as more energy and water are consumed, even more waste heat and air pollution are generated (Ichinose, Matsumoto, and Kataoka 2008, 367). Consequently, the human role is a major part of the UHI cycle.

Despite the importance of the human population’s impact in influencing the urban microclimate, the interplay between socioeconomic factors and urban heat islands is a relatively new and still emerging research topic (Koppe et al. 2004, 23–28). This study addresses that knowledge gap by exploring answers to three questions:

  • What are the main characteristics of urban hot spots that pose the greatest risks to residents?
  • How could an increased number of ‘inbuilt adaptation opportunities’ help residents of Australian cities to protect themselves against heatwaves?
  • How could retrofitting on a precinct-scale mitigate urban heat island effects (UHIEs) and reduce greenhouse gas emissions without compromising indoor thermal comfort?

To address these questions case study research methodology will be applied to carefully selected case study sites in Sydney and Adelaide. The correlation between urban characteristics, population and precinct vulnerability will be analysed during heatwaves to identify the key indicators of UHIs and the vulnerability of the precincts, and to explore best mitigation techniques. The research is a part of the Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) for Low Carbon Living funded project titled, ‘Urban microclimates – Comparative study of major contributors to the urban heat island effect in three Australian cities: Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide’ (RP2005). The project will be conducted with four other PhD students and leading researchers from three universities that include the University of South Australia, the University of Melbourne and the University of New South Wales.


Gertrud Hatvani-Kovacs graduated with an MSc degree in Architectural-Engineering in 2007 at the Budapest University of Technology. During her university studies she worked as a Student Demonstrator at the Department of Historical Architecture and Monuments where she assisted the research work of the Department and carried out own research project. After her graduation she worked as an Architect–Engineer and Certified Building Energy Auditor at engineering offices in Budapest. In the past two years, she was been involved in the project management of sustainable office developments at Skanska. As a LEED AP she contributed in the design and execution work of the first LEED Platinum building in Hungary. She is a chartered member of the Hungarian Chamber of Architects and as an Architect and Building Energy Certifier. She joined the Zero Waste SA Research Centre at UniSA in September 2013 as a PhD Candidate. Her research interests include: sustainable retrofitting, and citizens’ evolution towards a more resilient living.


Data collection 25%
Research Analysis 10%
Research Publication 35%

Selected bibliography:

Baker, Nick, and Mark Standeven. 1996. Thermal comfort for free-running buildings. Energy and Buildings 23 (3):175-182.

Brager, Gail S, and Richard J de Dear. 1998. Thermal adaptation in the built environment: a literature review. Energy & Buildings 27 (1):83-96.

Ichinose, Toshiaki, Futoshi Matsumoto, and Kumi Kataoka. 2008. Counteracting Urban Heat Islands in Japan. In Urban Energy Transition–From Fossil Fuels to Renewable Power, edited by P. Droege. Amsterdam: Elsevier.

Kovats, R Sari, and Shakoor Hajat. 2008. Heat stress and public health: a critical review. Annu. Rev. Public Health 29:41-55.

Langlois, Neil, Jonathon Herbst, Kerryn Mason, John R Nairn, and Roger W Byard. 2013. Using the Excess Heat Factor (EHF) to predict the risk of heat related deaths. Journal of forensic and legal medicine 20:408–411.

Loughnan, Margaret, Nigel  Tapper, Thu  Phan, Kellie   Lynch, and Judith  McInnes. A spatial vulnerability analysis of urban populations during extreme heat events in Australian capital cities. NCCARF 2013 Available from (accessed 21 January 2014).

McGregor, Glenn R, Tanja Wolf, Simon Gosling, and M Pelling. Social impacts of heatwave Bristol Science Report – SC20061/SR6. Environment Agency, Bristol 2007 Available from (accessed 19 November 2014).

Wong, Nyuk Hien, and Yu Chen. 2009. Tropical urban heat islands : climate, buildings and greenery. Edited by Y. Chen. New York: Taylor & Francis.