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Completed project

Conveying the benefits of living turf - mitigation of the urban heat island effect (TU18000)

Key research provider: Seed Consulting Services
Publication date: Wednesday, May 27, 2020

What’s it all about?

This research, which was conducted from 2018 to 2020, provides the turf industry with clear evidence on the benefits of living turf for mitigating the urban heat island (UHI) effect compared with synthetic turf. This information can be shared with communities, developers and governments to help them better understand how to manage urban landscapes and select land surface types that encourage the development of cool, rather than hot, cities. 

With the development and growth of cities and towns there has been a gradual loss of urban greening, replaced with hard, constructed surfaces that absorb and retain heat. Urban heat impacts the health and wellbeing of people living in cities and towns and has negative economic consequences. 

The project team used modelling and simulation to determine how living and synthetic turf coverage can influence the temperature of urban environments. Drawing on climate change information and changing development patterns, the team determined the influence on present and future years.

Across study sites in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia, the thermal performance of five landscape coverings were analysed: irrigated and non-irrigated living turf, short and long pile synthetic turf, and bitumen. 

The irrigated natural turf measured 4.9°C cooler than the baseline average surface temperature. The cooling benefits of non-irrigated living turf depends heavily on seasonal rainfall. On average, non-irrigated natural turf was found to provide a moderate cooling effect of 1.3°C.

In the team’s analysis, the long pile synthetic turf was one of the hottest surfaces in the landscape measuring nearly 11°C hotter than average. There was evidence that synthetic turf with long pile has a greater average surface temperature than short pile. In some instances, the surface temperature of synthetic turf was recorded at over 70°C.

The surface temperature results of bitumen consistently measured between long and short pile synthetic turf.

Research results also indicated that in areas with mixed ground covers such as playing fields, parks, and reserves there is a ‘borrowed cooling’ effect, such that the cooling benefits from living turf outweigh the warming effects of surfaces such as synthetic turf and bitumen. Any localised warming appears to be quickly mixed with cooler surrounding air, especially when there is a light breeze.

The results across all three capital cities confirmed that living turf provides a cooling influence on urban air temperatures compared with selected synthetic materials.


Explore more of the project’s research results in the Heat mitigation of living turf fact sheet.

Read more about the project in the Living turf: A cool option for reducing heat in our cities article published on page 6 of the Turf Australia Magazine, Spring Edition 2019.

Related levy funds


Funding statement:
This project was funded through the Hort Innovation Turf Fund using the turf R&D levy and contributions from the Australian Government.

Copyright © Horticulture Innovation Australia Limited 2020. The Final Research Report (in part or as a whole) cannot be reproduced, published, communicated or adapted without the prior written consent of Hort Innovation, except as may be permitted under the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth).