Phillippa Hildebrand

PhD research candidate University of Melbourne, January - August 2014

Principal Supervisor: Assoc. Professor Lu Aye  >>
Co-supervisor: Dr Dominique Hes

Thesis title: 

Modeling the Urban Heat Island Effect in Australian cities; Identifying key contributors and effective strategies to reduce urban heat in metropolitan areas.


Cities around the world are expanding rapidly to accommodate population growth. Urban expansion results in the removal of vegetation and replaces natural surfaces and landforms with urban structures, altering the near-surface climate of urban areas. These modifications have a strong impact on the surface energy budget of cities and result in the Urban Heat Island Effect, a phenomenon where metropolitan areas exhibit significantly higher air and surface temperatures than their rural surroundings (Memon et al., 2008). Urban Heat Island Effects have a strong detrimental impact on the health and quality of the urban realm. Higher temperatures strengthen heat waves, exacerbate air pollution, increase energy consumption and associated carbon emissions, and negatively impact the health and well being of urban residents (Loughner et al., 2012). As our cities continue to grow and develop, it is therefore critical that we identify and incorporate practical approaches to mitigate urban heat and enable the design of liveable and sustainable urban environments.

As one of the driest and most highly urbanised nations in the world, with an estimated 75-82% of the population living in urban areas (ABS, 2008), Australian cities are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of urban heat. Over the past 50 years, Australian heat waves have increased in both frequency and severity, with hot weather records occurring three times more often, and the number of hot days doubling (Steffen et al., 2014). Due to the UHIE phenomenon, urban areas can be as much as 4.5°C hotter than their rural surroundings, thereby exacerbating the negative impacts of hot weather events. It is imperative that further research into Urban Heat Island Effect mitigation be conducted to address the environmental, social and health costs associated with this phenomenon.

This study will explore and assess mitigation strategies to reduce urban heat and identify practical urban designs that promote sustainable and liveable urban environments. Utilising mesoscale meteorological modelling, this study will assess the Urban Heat Island in three target cities; Melbourne, Adelaide and Sydney, and project the impact of increasing surface albedo and vegetation cover on near-surface temperatures. In particular, the project will focus on comparing and assessing the relative costs and benefits of green infrastructure and reflective surfaces on urban temperatures.


Phillippa graduated with a Bachelor of Arts & Science (2008) and Master of Environment (2013) focusing on Sustainable Architecture, Building and Planning. Her research interests cover green infrastructure, liveability and urban environments. In previous roles Phillippa worked in research positions at Moreland Energy Foundation and Melbourne-based Green Infrastructure organisation, Do It On the Roof, managing the research library and investigating the benefits and opportunities for green roof installation in the Melbourne Central Business District.  Phillippa has also worked as an Environmental Educator at Melbourne Water and completed a research internship at Halcrow Pacific in 2011, investigating Urban Water Management and Liveability in Water Sensitive Cities. Phillippa continues her work today as a Research and Policy Adviser at Moreland Energy Foundation.



Hildebrand, P. (2011) ‘Integrated Urban Water Management and Liveability’, Halcrow Pacific, Melbourne, pp.1-72

Selected bibliography:

Australian Bureau of Statistics (2008) ‘ABS 3222.0 Population Projections, Australia 2006 – 2101′, ABS Canberra, viewed 24th February, 2014.

Coutts, A.M., Daly, E., Beringer, J. & Tapper, N.J (2013) ‘Assessing practical measures to reduce urban heat: Cool and green roofs’, Building and Environment, vol.70, pp.266-276

Gartland, L (2008), Heat Islands: Understanding: Understanding and Mitigating Heat in Urban Areas, Earth scan, Cromwell Press, UK.

Hunter-Block, A., Livesly, S.J. & Williams, S.G (2013) ‘Responding to the Urban Heat Island: A Review of the Potential of Green Infrastructure’, Victorian Centre for Climate Change Adaptation Research, Burnley.

Loughner, C.P., Allen, D.J., Zhang, D., Pickering, K.E., Dickerson, R.R & Landry, L (2012) ‘Roles or Urban Tree Canopy and Buildings in Urban Heat Island Effects: Parameterization and Preliminary Results’, Journal of Applied Meteorology & Climatology, vol.51, pp.1775-1793

Rizwan, A.M., Leung, D.Y.C & Chunho, L. (2008) ‘A review on the generation, determination and mitigation of Urban Heat Island’, Journal of Environmental Sciences, vol.20, pp.120-128

Steffen, W., Hughes, L & Perkins, S (2014) ‘Heat waves: Hotter, longer, more often’,  Climate Council, Australia, pp.1-70