In the summer of 2023, we opened the first CoolCo cooling point in Szigony Street, in the Józsefváros district of Budapest. In the four months since then, we've observed how residents use it, replicate next time what worked well, and improving the cooling point by learning from mistakes.
Experiences of engaging residents:
- Residents seem to pay little attention to adapting to heat waves, with few changing their daily routine on the hottest days. One of the pillars of the CoolCo concept is to raise awareness of the risks of heat waves and to encourage action. Experts have done this in a playful way, and we've put together a handout of tips to help you on the hottest days. These were distributed to residents on the spot.
- The format of public involvement was decided together with our consortium partner Rév8. We organised events where passers-by were free to join in, with no long term involvement expected. This more open format was more likely to appeal to more people than a strictly structured event.
- More emphasis could be placed on the active involvement of local actors. Local commercial outlets, health, educational and cultural organisations can be catalysts for improving the image of the cool spot and their active community-building role can be better exploited.
Experiences in the design, planning and implementation of street furniture:
- The on-site assembly of the cool point took two days. Throughout the process, the Koho' team experienced mixed perceptions of the street furniture from local residents. Many suggested that the plants, and even the modular elements, would soon be out of place. Nevertheless, the street furniture has remained in place in perfect functional condition. Although some flowers have indeed disappeared, they have been constantly replaced.
- One of the most visible positive results is the reduction in surface temperatures. While it should come as no surprise that breaking the continuity of the grey, dark asphalt has had a positive impact on the liveability of our city, the extent of it is worth noting. One weekend in July, we took a thermal imager out to Szigony Street and recorded a difference of almost 20 degrees Celsius between the asphalt and the surface temperature at the cooling point.
- Thanks to the flowers, pollinators were also frequent visitors to the cool point during the summer. An important consideration for future plant selection is to provide as large an area as possible to host these insects in the highest quality.
- During the field surveys we also found that more attention should be paid to providing shade. When drawing up architectural plans, priority should be given to ensuring that shade is cast at the cooling point at all angles of the sun.
- To get the full benefit of the concept, modifications to the plans are also needed to make assembly easier and less time-consuming on site. The team is already working on this.
- In addition to the CoolCo points, which, according to the primary purpose of the concept, allow cooling in the dense urban fabric, they can also be complemented with additional elements. Time spent in public spaces can be enriched with playful elements and educational activities, for which the CoolCo point is the perfect place. The definition and implementation options for the extra elements will be defined as the needs are clarified.
We have gained valuable experience in the development of the first CoolCo Cooling Point, which will help us to offer a more varied and comfortable cooling experience in different locations in the city in the future.