The impact of the urban environment on the energy used for cooling buildings
Cities are often warmer than their surroundings, and this can lead to more energy being used to cool buildings. This study looks at one city, London, and assesses the impact of the urban environment on the amount of energy used for air-conditioning. There are three main strands to the work. First, it was important to determine just how great the variation in air temperature is, and how this varies through time and through the urban space. Eighty measurement stations were established along radiating lines from the centre of London as far as rural areas. These measured the air temperature simultaneously at hourly intervals for over a year. Second, to support the main data acquisition, short-term tests within London looked at specific aspects of the urban environment that affect air temperature: the effects of vegetation in parks, and facade colour in streets. Third, the impact on energy use of the measured temperature variation was then determined by using simulation to model a standard building in different urban contexts. The mean heat island intensity was found to vary with distance from the centre of London, and with the local degree of urbanization at any given distance. The maximum intensity reached 8°C on occasion but was more usually 1-2°C in the daytime and 3-4°C at night. The proximity of areas of vegetation, such as parks, to a site was associated with cooler daytime temperatures. The annual cooling load for a standard building at the centre of London was found to be 25% more than at a rural site. However, at the most urban sites over-shadowing reduced the cooling load to 14% more than at a rural site. Heating load decreased towards the centre, but on balance total annual load (for heating and cooling) rose towards the centre to 8.5% more than rural use, and then reduced at the most overshadowed sites. The balance of the effect of urbanization on heating and cooling load depended on the level of internal gain in the building. This study makes a significant contribution to understanding the balance of the impact of urban environments on the energy used for cooling and heating buildings.