Seat Batten Guide: Which Material Gets Hottest in Summer?

Timber? Aluminium? The answer may surprise you.

Comfort sitting outdoors can depend on many factors: position, view, shelter, microclimate, social comfort and more – see our Gehl cheatsheet on how to place seats in the city.

The temperature of the seat under you can also contribute.

Metal, for example, is commonly thought to be hottest in summer and coldest in winter. Street Furniture Australia’s inhouse engineers ran a study, dubbed the Goldilocks Batten Project, to get to the truth.

Access the full Goldilocks Report (730KB).

They tested anodised, powdercoated and woodgrain aluminium, and oiled hardwood (Jarrah) battens. For comparison, they also looked at raw aluminium – a material we do not use in seats.

The battens were placed in the sun, and the temperature recorded regularly. The engineers noted how long it took the material to heat up or cool down, in full sun and with clouds.

Which Seat Batten Gets Hottest, and Which Feels Hottest?

The batten that feels hottest in a blind test is NOT the batten with the highest recorded temperature on a sunny day.

  • Anodised aluminium was 10°C cooler than oiled timber. There is a common misperception is that anodised is hot in summer. It is actually cooler than oiled hardwood, making it great for coastal locations but should be avoided for colder climates.
  • Oiled hardwood battens reach the highest temperature, as oil causes the material to store heat. Regular oiling is recommended for seats as it improves durability.
  • Aluminium still FEELS hotter than wood, as metal has higher conductivity to skin. Raw aluminium gets hotter than anodised.
  • Woodgrain and powdercoated aluminium reached higher temperatures than anodised aluminium: the extra layer insulates the material. A thick powdercoat can provide conductivity levels similar to timber: so it will feel cooler than raw aluminium.
  • Applying white powdercoat or white paint will raise emissivity: light-coloured materials do not store as much heat.
Results from one of many batten temperature studies by the in-house engineering team.
Anodised aluminium battens do not get as hot as timber, and work well in seaside locations.

What Makes Battens Hot?

Three main factors determine how responsive battens are to heat:

  • Thermal Mass – how much heat energy and time it takes to change temperature. High mass is best for battens – we want them to heat and cool slowly.
  • Radiation Emissivity – how much energy absorbed from the sun is emitted out or stored within. Battens that store heat feel hot, so higher is better.
  • Conductivity – how fast heat is transferred from the surface of the metal to skin.

Hardwood battens have the highest thermal mass of materials tested – they change temperature most slowly. They are solid, while the aluminium are hollow extrusions, so perhaps this is not surprising.

In tests where wind blew across aluminium extrusions, the metal quickly cooled.

Our Experience of Battens is Not Rational

Our team – with more than 30 years of experience supplying furniture to public spaces – notes that the comfort people experience from different kinds of battens on seats is also affected by psychological factors.

  • Looks matter. Timber and woodgrain aluminium tend to look warmer and more inviting to travellers waiting for the train, or relaxing in a park.
  • Your choice of colour may help overcome perceptions – for example, using warmer colours for psychological effect if cold is a concern.
  • The shinier a material is, the hotter or colder it looks.
  • People dress for the weather. Bare skin does not usually come in contact with a bench in winter.

So which batten should you choose? If heat is a concern, anodised aluminium does not get as hot, and will cool more quickly with cloud cover, wind or moving shade.

When designing for colder climates, timber and colourful palettes can make environments more inviting.

Street Furniture Australia materials and finishes are suitable for all-weather conditions, however certain selections empower you to optimise comfort.

Public art and colourful furniture help Woden Town Square in Canberra feel ‘warmer.’
Woden Town Square in Canberra, in winter, before the Woden Experiment activation.

make an enquiry

Opening hours are from Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm.

enquire now

recent news

Wood Without Worry

Aluminium woodgrain, also known as ‘Wood Without Worry,’ provides the warm look of timber – retained over time – with the minimal maintenance requirements of powder coated aluminium. Where timber requires oiling every three months to keep it at its best, simply wipe down woodgrain aluminium with a clean, damp cloth every few months as required. See the new Wood Without Worry brochure. Enquire Now Select from five beautiful shades of wood: dark to light and cool to warm. Some Wood Without Worry battens require end caps. If this is the case, you may choose to match the end cap with the colour of the frame or batten. case studies Warm Tones Helping clients achieve a low maintenance, warm colour palette. Moore Street, Canberra by NettleonTribe.Aria Seat (CMA1) and Simple …

  • 1 jul 2020
read more

Join Us For Tea Time (via Zoom)

Take a quick (and educational) tea break with us! Landscape architects are invited to join a fast and interactive one-on-one Zoom chat with your local Street Furniture Australia representative to learn about street furniture trends, new products and latest projects.  Presentations are guaranteed no longer than 10-minutes plus Q&A. You will receive a T2 gift box of your choice, delivered to your home. The first 50 bookings also have a chance to win a Tokyobike Classic Sport valued at $1100.00.* Book by contacting Nancy on teatime@streetfurniture.com, or via the button below. * Winner announced on December 10, 2020 via StreetChat. Presentations must be done by this time. Bicycle will be a Tokyobike Classic Sport or equivalent depending on availability. Winner will select preferred size and colour.

  • 25 sep 2020
read more

Webinar: Homifying Sydney Olympic Park (1 Formal CPD)

To ‘homify’ is to create an ambience that is comfortable and immediately relaxing … a feeling that evokes, ‘I’m home’. Street Furniture Australia proudly presented ‘Homifying Sydney Olympic Park’ – a webinar accredited by the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects for 1 Formal CPD point – as part of the Land-e-Scape online festival. The presentation streamed on the Land-e-Scape conference platform and for free on YouTube. It is currently available to watch on demand via YouTube. Viewing link: https://bit.ly/3iUEKbwRegistration (optional): Register your attendance for CPD certification. What is the webinar about? The session will explore how human-centred design was applied for community consultation at Sydney Olympic Park. Human-centred design is a process more typically seen in product or software development than in placemaking. Street Furniture Australia uses human-centred design to create …

  • 7 oct 2020
read more

related news

Aria Smart Bench Wins Coveted Good Design Award

Australia’s first locally designed and made smart bench, with outdoor device charging and provision for WiFi and sensors, has received a prestigious Good Design Award Winner Accolade for outstanding design and innovation. The Aria Smart Bench is Street Furniture Australia’s first foray into the smart cities movement, says Head of Innovation June Lee Boxsell. “For us, smart cities has two aspects. First, human-centred: we aim to bring enjoyment to public spaces and create meaningful experiences for the community. One way Aria Smart Bench answers this need is through modularity,” says Boxsell. “Site specific solutions are important for activating public spaces. Each place has its own identity, community, history. Just as at Nike you can design your own shoe, with Aria you can design your own bench without having to build …

  • 12 jul 2019
read more

SFA Achieves Four ISO Certifications

Street Furniture Australia is launching a new Integrated Management System to include ISO certifications in quality, OH&S, sustainability and the environment. The system certified by QAS International is designed to meet the requirements of PAS99:2012 including Quality Management ISO 9001:2015, Environmental Management ISO 14001:2015, and OH&S Management ISO 45001:2018 and AS/NZS 4801:2001. The certification will further strengthen our program of continuous improvement, says Christopher Morgan, Street Furniture Australia Operations Manager, with 24 small audits leading up to the annual audit in 12 months’ time. “It’s not a rubber stamp that’s awarded once, it’s a system you need to continuously upgrade and improve,” he says. The three months of work leading up to the certification has brought the entire team closer, he tells StreetChat. “ISO is a great process as it …

  • 27 may 2019
read more

Augmented Reality is Here

What if you could stand onsite at your next project and explore how furniture could be placed, with your phone? A new way to envision and experiment with configuring the Aria Seating System – in situ or from your office – is here, with the Street Furniture Australia Build ARIA app now available in the App Store for iPhone and iPad. Watch the step-by-step guide on how to use the app: To access, search for Build ARIA in the app store, or scan this QR code: The app aims to make specifying and sharing concepts easier and more enjoyable, says Design and Marketing Manager June Lee Boxsell. The latest Augmented Reality (AR), technology is now capable of realistic and accurate virtual renderings that spring to life on your phone or tablet. “When we saw the first …

  • 17 sep 2018
read more