Energy Consumption of Buildings in an Urban Environment

Building energy consumption is typically estimated with simulations that make use of weather files compiled at stations often located at airports. However, ambient temperatures and wind speeds at a given urban location can differ significantly from weather-station measurements. The well-known urban heat island (UHI) effect often leads to substantially warmer temperatures in urban areas relative to a rural or undeveloped reference, particularly in evenings. This is due to anthropogenic heat from buildings and vehicles, absorption of that heat and solar radiation in the day by the materials used in the urban infrastructure, and the trapping of long-wave radiative emissions by densely packed buildings.

This project studies these issues, with the goal of developing building energy simulation methods that account for the UHI effect and provide a more accurate estimate of building energy usage. An accurate diurnal and annual estimate of the local thermal environment and building energy use is important for building owners and operators and urban planners. It affects fuel consumption, carbon emissions, and may constrain such strategies as natural ventilation.

The work is being done by Building Technology Ph.D. student Bruno Bueno, under the supervision of Les Norford. We refer to the paper recently published in Boundary Layer Meteorology as the first of a series of publications now in preparation.