This project received a co-contribution from the Smart Places Acceleration Program, part of the NSW Government Digital Restart Fund. The NSW Smart Places Acceleration Program helps place owners - including councils, government agencies, property owners, and joint organisations - partner with the State Government to solve problems and improve the quality of life for communities across regional and metropolitan NSW. It is made possible by a $47 million reservation under the NSW Government Digital Restart Fund.


The NSW Department of Planning and Environment in partnership with UNSW High Performance Architecture team seek to address urban overheating in NSW cities and towns by establishing a “National Heat Vulnerability Observatory”.   “Smart and Cool Places Phase 1” will develop foundational elements for the observatory, pilot in two NSW cities (Maitland and Dubbo) and identify a plan to scale beyond pilot.

Ultimately (after Phase 1), the national heat vulnerability observatory will be applicable to cities and communities throughout Australia. The approach and design of this digital asset therefore has the future in mind and will be positioned as the “National Heat Vulnerability Observatory”.

Project Objectives

The National Heat Vulnerability Observatory (NaHVO) aims to develop rigorous national datasets and an innovative, robust and consistent methodology to report and measure the heat vulnerability issues and cooling potential of Australia’s cities. NaHVO will provide:

  • City/town specific datasets for heat vulnerability that are tailored to specific urban contexts and local overheating issues.
  • State and national datasets to provide the ability to monitor the heat vulnerability and cooling potential trends of Australian cities.
  • Performance measures and key indicators derived from these datasets to establish a consistent methodology for heat vulnerability assessment and benchmarking.
  • Analytical modelling for city and precincts with what-if scenario analysis of mitigation and adaptation interventions.
  • Data interoperability with the NSW Digital Twin and other urban networks and government data platforms.

Smart and Cool Places Phase 1 will develop a digital capability in NSW to increase the state’s resilience to urban overheating. It will inform the scaling of these approaches to all communities in NSW through the development of digital platforms and standards.

Phase 1 is a pilot of NaHVO using two cities: Dubbo and Maitland. The next step with be a scale up of NaHVO to integrate Australia’s largest cities.


Who Will Benefit


  • Develop effective mitigation strategies
  • Prioritise heat vulnerability investments
  • Monitor heat vulnerability performance of cities and towns
  • Track effectiveness of policies and investments over time

Planners, Developers, Architects & Designers

  • Establish specific heat mitigation planning controls and design requirements
  • Evaluate urban and building mitigation interventions for specific locations

Community Members

  • Make decisions about where to live and what can be done to adapt to extreme heat

Project Participants

    • Matthew Riley, Director Climate and Atmospheric Science
    • Peter Runcie, Project Manager
    • Thilini Wickramasekera, Project Coordinator
    • Digital Twins Team
    • Scientia Professor Deo Prasad
    • A/Professor Lan Ding (Project Lead)
    • Dr William Craft
    • Dr Henry Petersen
    • Shuhan Yang
    • Tony Jin
    • Research associates
    • Catriona Jennings, Organisational Sustainability Coordinator
    • Tim Howlett, Team Leader Growth Planning Projects
    • Matthew Green, Chief Information Officer
    • Catherine Pepper, Manager Environment & Sustainability
    • Ben Maddox, Principal Sustainability Officer
    • Gary Hamer, Senior Strategic Planner

Advisory Committee

  • Matthew Riley, NSW Department of Planning and Environment
  • Jane Gibbs, Office of Energy and Climate Change, NSW Treasury
  • Ian Oppermann, NSW Department of Customer Service
  • Wayne Patterson, Live NSW, NSW Department of Customer Service
  • Lizzy Pattinson, Transport for NSW
  • Beth Pankhurst, Transport for NSW
  • Deo Prasad, UNSW
  • Bin Jalaludin, UNSW
  • Lan Ding, UNSW (Project Lead)
  • Peter Runcie, Natirar Consulting (Project Manager)
  • William Craft, UNSW
  • Thilini Wickramasekera, NSW Department of Planning and Environment
  • Ben Maddox, Maitland City Council
  • Tim Howlett, Dubbo Regional Council
  • Susy Cenedese, LGNSW
  • UNSW High Performance Architecture

Project Contact

A/Professor Lan Ding: