The Grand Challengers Podcast Episode #16

A ‘hot’ topic for ‘cooler’ cities – high performance architecture to combat urban overheating

Guest: Mattheos Santamouris

August 1st, 2023

Episode Teaser


“…the major challenge is really to find the proper tools to modify the economic system and the financial system to put the priority on green investments…”

Cities are getting hotter worldwide, but can we do something to combat this urban overheating problem? And what is it like to implement and create widespread impact of research that you have spent decades perfecting?

My guest today is Mattheos Santamouris, the Anita Lawrence Professor of High Performance Architecture at the University of New South Wales in Sydney Australia. Mattheos’ incredible and global career to date has seen him take on the challenges of making our cities cooler, more liveable and adaptable to climate change, both through research and implementation in over 200 projects across the world!

Today’s show is an eye-opening discussion on the serious consequences our cities are facing due to climate change and urgent and key actions that must be taken if we are to safeguard our world’s future.


Mattheos Santamouris is a Scientia, Distinguished, Professor of High Performance Architecture at UNSW, and past Professor at the University of Athens, Greece. He is also visiting Professor at a range of other institutes in Cyprus, the UK, Japan, Italy, South Korea, Japan, Singapore and Malaysia. He obtained his PhD at the University of Patras on Energy Physics in 1987 and has since been researching around topics of sustainable building architecture and technologies to help mitigate urban overheating in cities.

Mattheos is ranked as the top world cited researcher in the field of Building and Construction by the Stanford University ranking system for 2019-2021 and as the 538th researcher in the world in all scientific disciplines in the list prepared by Stanford University in 2021 for the 200,000 most influential researchers worldwide. He is the current Editor in Chief of the journal Energy and Buildings, past Editor in Chief of the Journal of Advances Building Energy Research. He has had several editorial and over 400 roles and the author of over 290 scientific papers published in peer-reviewed, international scientific journals.

Mattheos is well-known for his work on Cool Materials, a solution to combating urban overheating that he developed with his team and has been implementing in hundreds of projects worldwide. He has been featured heavily in the media including a recent interview by CNN and is active in promoting not only technological solutions, but also advocating for strong social and financial way to adapt our world to the impending climate crisis knocking at our door.

Resources Related to the Episode

(Disclosure: Links on this page to “View on Amazon” are Affiliate links. This means that, at zero cost to you, I will earn an affiliate commission if you click through the link and finalize a purchase.)

  • Greece Travel Tips – what are Mat’s suggestions for Greece?
  • Mat has been a visiting professor in London, Bolzano, Tokyo, Cyprus, Singapore, Seoul and Kuala Lumpur
  • More about Mat’s project in Saudi Arabia
  • Long-term implications of urbanization, population growth and climate change
  • Mat’s recent interview on CNN
  • Some of Mat’s key papers that cover a broad range of topics discussed on the episode:
    • Santamouris, M. and Vasilakopoulou, K., 2022. Recent progress on urban heat mitigation technologies. Science Talks, p.100105. [Open Access Link]
    • Santamouris, M., 2020. Recent progress on urban overheating and heat island research. Integrated assessment of the energy, environmental, vulnerability and health impact. Synergies with the global climate change. Energy and Buildings207, p.109482. [Link]
    • Santamouris, M. and Kolokotsa, D., 2015. On the impact of urban overheating and extreme climatic conditions on housing, energy, comfort and environmental quality of vulnerable population in Europe. Energy and Buildings98, pp.125-133. [Link]
  • Also check out Cooling Energy Solutions for Buildings and Cities by Mat himself [View on Amazon]
  • Further reading on the health impacts:
    • Schinasi, L.H., Benmarhnia, T. and De Roos, A.J., 2018. Modification of the association between high ambient temperature and health by urban microclimate indicators: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Environmental research161, pp.168-180. [Link]
    • Work on human thermal adaptation mentioned by Mat: Toe, D.H.C. and Kubota, T., 2013. Development of an adaptive thermal comfort equation for naturally ventilated buildings in hot–humid climates using ASHRAE RP-884 database. Frontiers of architectural research2(3), pp.278-291. [Open Access Link]
    • A recent study on the health implications and heat-related mortality: Ballester, J., Quijal-Zamorano, M., Méndez Turrubiates, R.F., Pegenaute, F., Herrmann, F.R., Robine, J.M., Basagaña, X., Tonne, C., Antó, J.M. and Achebak, H., 2023. Heat-related mortality in Europe during the summer of 2022. Nature medicine, pp.1-10. [Open Access Link]
  • Increase in ground-level ozone: Mat has a publication coming out on this topic, which will be posted once published.
  • What is ESG investing?
  • The Ministry for the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson [View on Amazon)]
  • More on energy poverty:
    • Santamouris, M., 2016. Innovating to zero the building sector in Europe: Minimising the energy consumption, eradication of the energy poverty and mitigating the local climate change. Solar Energy128, pp.61-94. [Link]
    • Mat published a book on the topic: Santamouris, M., 2018. Minimizing energy consumption, energy poverty and global and local climate change in the built environment: innovating to zero: causalities and impacts in a zero concept world. Elsevier. [Link] [View on Amazon]
  • We previously discussed ‘Green Washing’ in Episode 3 with Martijn Kuller, check out his episode
  • What is the urban heat island/local climatic change? For those wanting to go deeper into the science, you can check out the following books
    • Oke, T.R., 2002. Boundary layer climates. Routledge. [View on Amazon]
    • Oke, T.R., Mills, G., Christen, A. and Voogt, J.A., 2017. Urban climates. Cambridge University Press. [View on Amazon]
  • Some key papers on Mat’s research on Cool Materials
    • An article in Sustainability Matters
    • Karlessi, T., Santamouris, M., Apostolakis, K., Synnefa, A. and Livada, I.J.S.E., 2009. Development and testing of thermochromic coatings for buildings and urban structures. Solar Energy83(4), pp.538-551. [Link]
    • Feng, J., Khan, A., Doan, Q.V., Gao, K. and Santamouris, M., 2021. The heat mitigation potential and climatic impact of super-cool broadband radiative coolers on a city scale. Cell Reports Physical Science2(7). [Open Access Link]
    • Khan, A., Carlosena, L., Feng, J., Khorat, S., Khatun, R., Doan, Q.V. and Santamouris, M., 2022. Optically modulated passive broadband daytime radiative cooling materials can cool cities in summer and heat cities in winter. Sustainability14(3), p.1110. [Open Access Link]

Connect with Mattheos Santamouris