Green Urban Futures

Green Urban Futures South Australia

A project team supported by the Environment Institute at the University of Adelaide

The recently released Climate Change Science and Knowledge Plan for South Australia states that: “Responding to our changing climate requires South Australia to prepare and adapt. To do this well, we need to be equipped with the best science and knowledge.”

Adelaide’s Climate Challenges

Adelaide’s future climate is projected to be increasingly hot and dry, with the temperatures rising and rainfall declining. The increase in extreme temperatures is especially alarming.

The recent, rapid growth in the number of extremely hot days in Adelaide will potentially have catastrophic impacts on human health, including the elderly and people with comorbidities. These temperatures will also adversely impact ecosystems and biodiversity, and it is crucial to future-proof Adelaide against these changes as quickly as possible.

Plane tree

Responding to Adelaide’s climate challenges

Green Urban Futures is a multidisciplinary team of researchers at the University of Adelaide who have united to provide significant solutions to major climate challenges now and for the future.Our researchers have wide-ranging expertise that can establish South Australia as a global leader in providing ‘green urban futures’ such as trees, green walls and roofs, cool surfaces, and the infrastructure required to enable these solutions.

    Partnering with Green Urban Futures

    • How will our team help?

      Our team will identify problems and deliver integrated, actionable solutions to:

      • Better understand how to maximise the benefits (e.g., cooling, amenity, biodiversity, health) and minimise the costs of urban greening.
      • Identify the best tree mix to make Adelaide a truly green city that is resilient to a changing climate.
      • Assess the ecological behaviours and needs of different tree species, and how they translate to responses at different scales (e.g., lot, neighbourhood, suburb, city).
      • Increase our capacity to implement greening strategies (e.g., water supply infrastructure, soils) and assess their potential co-benefits (e.g., flood control, water quality improvement).
      • Understand the drivers of public acceptance and promote public participation in measures identified as most effective.
      • Evaluate scenarios that stress-test the performance of potential solutions under a range of critical, plausible, future conditions, e.g., population, climate, demographics.
      • Visualise and communicate green future alternatives through graphic, written, and conceptual methods.
    • Green Urban Futures areas of expertise

      Green Urban Futures recognises that achieving a climate-resilient and ecologically vibrant city is not a case of re-imagining a static environment; instead, this transformation must be achieved in the face of hostile environmental change that is impacting all cities globally. By harnessing the power of world-leading research to foster the resilience of our natural and built environment, our university researchers can assist in delivering exceptional adaptations, and a green model for other arid cities to follow.

      • Green Urban Futures has the skill sets to provide significant data and solutions to:
      • Identify the best species for selection as street trees.
      • Monitor tree health, using both remote (e.g., hyperspectral, Normalised Difference Vegetation Index) and proximal (e.g., temperature, soil moisture, tree water status) methodologies.
      • Forecast and model water requirements for healthy urban forests and smart watering to reduce heat2.
      • Assist in planning for water sources and delivery for optimal use of this precious resource.
      • Design landscapes suitable for cooling residential areas as well as urban centres.
      • Assist with building design to minimise heat risk and monitor human health during peak stress periods; and analyse where the problem areas are and determine processes for decreasing future risk.
      • Better understand the social drivers of canopy loss and how to engage communities in the preservation of valuable trees.

      We also offer research and social science skills to assess and promote public acceptance and participation in the measures identified as most effective in adapting to challenging environmental conditions. There is also potential for pilot-scale projects to be trialled in collaboration with the University of Adelaide, at its North Terrace, Waite, and Roseworthy Campuses.

    Green Urban Futures - our list of experts

    • Green streets and flourishing parklands

      Areas of expertise


      • Planning and design of constructed ecologies and urban planting.

      • Greenfield development assessment.

      • Monitoring, sensing, and management of streets and parklands through smart technologies.

      • Visualisation of urban greening outcomes and scenarios.

      • Modelling of built environment energy saving through green infrastructure.

      • Understanding ecosystem services of the urban forest.

      Dr Ehsan Sharifi

      Dr Carlos Bartesaghi-Koc

      Dr Scott Hawken

      Prof. James Hayter

      Dr Tanya Court

      Prof. Veronica SoebartoArchitecture & Built Environment

      Dr Ramesh Raja Segaran, Director, Unmanned Aircraft Research Facility

    • Selection of tree species for urban spaces

      • Reviewing and assessing living collections and urban plantings across Adelaide using international data.

      • Monitoring water status and general health of trees in real time.

      • Assessing heat damage to individual trees and groups of trees.

      • Proposing solutions to ensure individual tree survival or replacement options where appropriate.

      Prof. Bob Hill, Director, Environment Institute

      Dr Kate DelaporteCurator, Waite Arboretum

      Dr Vinay PagayAdvanced sensing technologies

    • Environmental engineering solutions

      • Decision support (optimisation, multi-criteria analysis, trade-off analysis) and decision-making under uncertainty (sensitivity analysis, uncertainty analysis, scenario analysis).

      • Climate impact analysis and adaptation (climate stress testing, adaptive pathways).

      • Water sensitive urban design (alternative sources of water, smart systems, stormwater control), water quality, resources and supply, disaster risk analysis and mitigation (heatwave, bushfire, flooding, coastal inundation), water-energy nexus.

      • Green networks and patch dynamics (landscapes that promote cool air flows, beneficial microclimates and adaptive ecologies).

      • Urban agriculture for healthy and sustainable food production


      Prof. Holger Maier,

      Dr Mark Thyer Environmental Engineering

      Prof. Seth WestraHydrology and climate risk

      Assoc. Prof. Luke MosleyWater Research Centre

      Dr Scott HawkenLandscape Architecture and Urban Design

      Prof. Tim CavagnaroSoil Science

    • Socio-cultural perceptions of environmental resource management

      • Assessing public acceptance and participation in greening measures.

      • Conducting interviews, focus groups, and collecting oral histories to evaluate social commitment to increasing green cover via tree planting and sustainable water management.

      • Proposing policy solutions in response to public concerns.

      Dr Georgina DrewAnthropology and Development Studies

      Dr Melissa Nursey-BraySocial Sciences

    • Community health adaptation to extreme heat and climate change

      • Assessing mental health impacts from extreme heat at local government level to develop tailored adaptation measurements.

      • Assessing health challenges in sub-standard housing and working with building and landscaping to improve benefits.

      • Developing tailored extreme heat and community health adaptation strategies for specific councils, based on their characteristics (e.g., landscaping, demographics)

      Prof. Peng BiPublic Health and Environmental Medicine

    • Remote sensing of environmental dynamics across platforms

      • Multi-scale environmental senses with ground vehicles, drones, conventional aircraft and satellites.

      • Sensing and monitoring urban land use, land surfaces and vegetation.

      • Assessing condition, spatial distribution and change in greenspace and trees.

      Dr Ramesh Raja SegaranDirector, Unmanned Aircraft Research Facility

      Prof. Megan LewisEnvironmental Remote Sensing and Geospatial Sciences

      Dr Carlos Bartesaghi KocArchitecture & Built Environment

    Our researchers are working with councils to find stormwater solutions

    Our researchers are working with a number of councils to develop smart stormwater solutions that reduce peak flows considerably, thus avoiding or minimising costly stormwater system upgrades, while providing water for urban greening.

    Download the brochure

    Feel free to share with your colleagues, councils, business and interested stakeholders.

    Green Urban Futures.pdf

    Contact us

    Would you like to discuss working with the Green Urban Futures team?

    Tel: +61 8 8313 0543