‘Chalk the Campus’ event at the Royal Darwin Hospital (RDH)

June 14th, 2022

More than 20 RDH staff and health precinct users gathered on Thursday 26 May to share how they experience heat when outside at RDH. Participants raised issues and highlighted the pavement with chalk to indicate where heat mitigation solutions could be placed. The event was organised by the CSIRO-led Darwin Living Lab in collaboration with RDH’s Sustainable Healthcare Committee.

The ‘chalk the campus’ event was designed to engage a range of people who work and visit the Hospital precinct. Participants represented a range of perspectives that included staff (medical, allied health and support and administration) and customers who use healthcare services at RDH. Participants:

  • Identified and discussed the areas they use when outside at the hospital and how heat affects their activities and health.
  • Shared ideas by chalking the pavement on where they would like to see cooling approaches (more trees, shade structures, cool pavements, cool routes for cycling and walking etc.) in the RDH precinct, as well as infrastructure needed to better make use of public open space.

Heat challenges

Participants highlighted the following heat challenges for RDH:

  • At-grade carparks as heat sinks with large expanses of heat absorbing bitumen and no shading. Participants emphasized the heat impacts of walking to-and-from carparks and returning to very hot vehicles.    
  • Walking paths mostly exposed with little or no shade and often surrounded by bare ground that radiates heat. Staff noted they use these paths to escort patients between services at RDH, which can be very uncomfortable due to heat and made more difficult when paths are in poor condition.
  • Cycling routes that are shaded to provide cool routes through the campus and connect to end-of-trip facilities were noted as lacking by participants, which discouraged some from using active transport modes (cycling, walking, e-bike/scooters).
  • Covered walkways only provide shading benefits during the middle of the day.
  • Some areas highlighted as cool refuges lacked infrastructure, such as benches in the shade.

Solutions put forward for cooler, more climate adapted RDH

  • Trees take time to establish and provide full shading benefit, so acting now (such as through the ‘campus greening’ project) is important for future resilience to climate impacts. Also, participants highlighted the need for a staged approach with tactical interventions for priority hotspots, such as the use of green walls on covered walkways that provide more immediate cooling benefits.  
  • Planning for outdoor realm needs to consider both the needs of staff and patients. This includes providing cool refuges that can help to activate the outdoor realm and improve wellbeing of staff and precinct users.
  • Expanding cool and shaded walking and cycling paths. These upgrades would support more active transport to-and-from RDH, as well as improving thermal comfort when moving around the precinct.  
  • Participants would like to see greening integrated in overall planning for the precinct that reflects how people move around the campus and the specific needs of both staff and customers.