Monday, July 25, 2011

Think It's Hot Out? Check Out Your Local Playgrounds

On July 18th I conducted a short examination of the temperature differences between playground areas that have shade, and those that are unshaded.  The air temperature was 30 degrees Celsius.

While I fully expected the temperature differences to be somewhat pronounced, I was shocked to find a range of 35 degrees Celsius (that's 95 degrees Fahrenheit) between the coolest and hottest.  I was also surprised to see that temperatures for cobble walkways were only marginally hotter than well packed soil with turf grass (see slide 17 below).

I recognize that surface temperature can be influenced by the color, texture, and material, and that these measurements may not be the exact temperature experienced by children in the playgrounds.  However, many of these surfaces reach temperatures that would cause injury and pain; as well, the range in temperatures between those areas that are shaded or not would have an indisputable impact on people using these spaces, as they would be coming under the same influence of direct sunlight as the surfaces whose temperature I was measuring.  These readings are too extreme to not make the point crystal clear.

Given this first hand analysis, and other well documented concerns about sun health from the medical profession, I strongly suggest that more attention must be paid to how we design our public outdoor spaces to ensure that we provide shade (preferably with trees), particularly in playgrounds.  This simple awareness in our design exercises can have a great impact on our children's health, and for those of us also minding or attending their play.

Ask yourself if your neighbourhood or community has enough well positioned trees and shade structures to provide sun health, and if not, what is being done to correct this.

View the slideshow of my findings HERE.

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