Cool Towns: European co-operation to combat heat stress in cities

Interreg logo 2019
Interreg cool towns logo 2019

Cool Towns is a co-operation between 13 European partners aimed to counteract the negative effects of climate change and find attractive solutions that make cities climate-proof and robust so that heat stress is prevented or limited as much as possible. 

The project has received funding from the Interreg 2 Seas Programme 2014 – 2020 and brings together leading European research/academic institutions, governmental organisations and industries from the climatology and climate adaptation domains.

The Challenge

Climate change causes warmer summers with more frequent droughts and heat waves. In many small and medium sized cities of the 2 Seas area, these higher temperatures have a negative impact on public health, productivity, wellbeing, air

and water quality and other urban systems. We call these impacts Heat Stress.

The need for spatial heat stress adaptation is clear. But to improve their heat resilience, cities still lack essential knowledge and tools for:

* setting heat resilience objectives (existing and desired heat situation) and making investment decisions (where, which measures)

* effective heat adaptation measures with co-benefits for other urban needs (e.g. air quality, flood prevention)

* integrating heat resilience in broader climate adaptation and spatial development strategies

* build capacity and sense of urgency for heat resilient design among urban planners, (landscape) architects, builders and building/home owners.

Overall Objective

To increase the capacity of small and medium-sized cities in the 2 Seas area to adapt to the heat-related effects of   though interventions in spatial development and urban design in public and private space.

Overall result: improved resilience to heat stress of small/medium sized cities, by:

  • 28.000m2 urban area with improved heat resilience, directly benefitting over 35.000 daily users
  • Measurable reduction of heat stress level on these sites by at least 1 category on Universal Thermal Climate Index (UTCI)scale.
  • 2300 urban development actors with improved heat resilience capacities
  • 80 non-partner cities in 2 Seas countries accessing Cool Towns tools and solutions for heat resilience

Additional results are improved capacity for and widespread introduction by 2 Seas local/regional authorities for heat stress resilience planning and decision making and the identification, selection, financing and implementation of effective heat resilience measures.


  • Heat stress mapping & modelling tool – interactive tool for mapping heat stress and modelling impact of different intervention scenarios.
  • Decision support tool for selecting heat resilience measures – showing key decision-making parameters incl.: heat reduction effect, co-benefits, costs, resources, conditionalities of heat resilience measures
  • 7 pilots of different types of heat resilience measures in varying small & medium sized city conditions
  • Training and capacity building package on heat resilience
  • Roadmap heat resilient city development for local authorities – looking at objective setting, policy integration, measures, financing models, regulation and incentives
  • Target groups are:
  • Local authorities in small and medium sized cities
  • Regional authorities
  • Inhabitants, businesses, property owners
  • Construction sector, urban planners, (landscape) architects
  • Users of public space in these cities
  • Academia

Cross Border Approach

The need to adapt to the heat-related effects of climate change affects all small and medium sized cities in the 2 Seas. Yet, proven models and adaptation solutions to tackle heat stress in the 2 Seas context are not available. To develop a robust response to heat stress, we have built a consortium that bundles all available expertise and competences on heat resilience, currently scattered across the 2 Seas area.

Partner cities and regions bring experience in urban design, climate adaptation and stakeholder capacity building.

Prominent academic institutes bring complementary expertise in applied heat modelling, adaptive urban and green infrastructure design, perception of heat stress, ecosystem modelling and cooling.

Business partners offer innovative solutions for heat stress reduction that can be tested in our project.

The broad territorial and disciplinary composition of our consortium ensures that we develop an adaptation response that is relevant for the whole 2 Seas area.

Cool Towns develops the following innovative solutions, currently unavailable to cities dealing with heat stress. Existing heat maps only show the spatial distribution of heat (temperature), but not of heat stress (where does heat actually cause problems?). We will develop an interactive model that allows cities to map present and future heat stress and the expected effects of different possible interventions.

To support cities in effective decision making we will generate currently missing information on all conceivable heat resilience measures, including quantified effects on heat reduction, costs and co-benefits.

We will use these tools to design and deliver 7 heat resilience pilots. In these pilots, we will test, demonstrate and evaluate a range of different heat adaptation measures. This allow us to experiment with heat resilient urban design, evaluate the measures, and validate the usefulness of our developed tools for decision-making in heat resilient urban design.

Press Releases

One year into the European project Cool Towns: the first results and a preview. [European Regional Development Fund] 

The 'Cool Towns' Project: Using green/blue infrastructure to reduce heat stress in public open spaces. [Bulletin of the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management]