Urban Microclimates

Project Overview

An urban microclimate is influenced by urban building configuration and can differ considerably to the local meteorological data that is usually measured for that region. This three year EPSRC funded project investigates urban microclimates through numerical and experimental study. The project aim is twofold. Firstly, to develop a computer simulation model of the urban microclimate which can be used to analyse influencing factors and their impact on building energy performance; and secondly, to assess urban heat island (UHI) mitigation strategies and provide strategic decision support for sustainable urban planning. The full project title is Numerical and experimental study on integrated strategic simulation model of urban environment


The urban heat island (UHI) effect is characterised by increased local atmospheric and surface temperatures within urban areas, compared with neighbouring rural locations. This effect increases the risk of overheating in buildings as well as the maximum energy demand for cooling. Effective urban planning and sustainable architecture can help reduce the negative impacts of UHIs, improve living conditions and directly reduce energy demand. There is a clear link between microclimatic variables (e.g. wind speed, wind direction, air temperature, humidity, solar radiation and daylight) and a building’s energy performance. Furthermore, there is an increasing concern for thermal studies of urban environments, in particular, those examining the effect of building configuration, such as urban form, building orientation, surface materials, and vegetation on building energy consumption, natural and hybrid ventilation and outdoor comfort. A need has arisen for a robust calculation tool (using the first-cut calculation method) to enable planners, architects and environmental assessors, to quickly and accurately compare the impact of different urban forms on local climate and UHI mitigation strategies.

Key Objectives

The project's main objectives include:

  • Development of a dynamic coupled thermal and airflow urban model with integrated Digital Elevation Model (DEM);
  • Model validation with experimental data from urban canyons;
  • Linking the proposed model with existing thermal and airflow building models in order to conduct interrelationship analysis of urban microclimates and building energy performance ;
  • Analysis of urban heat island (UHI) mitigation strategies and the impact on urban environments, energy consumption and carbon emissions;
  • Assess urban and building thermal comfort.


Industry partners
The Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers UK
Chongqing University, China
Max Fordham LLP UK
MTT Consulting UK
Short Associates UK

Research Outputs

Journal papers

1. Gao, Y., Yao, R., Li, B., Turkbeyler, E., Luo, Q. and Short, A. (2012) Field studies on the effect of built forms on urban wind environments. Renewable Energy, 46. pp. 148-154. ISSN 0960-1481 doi: 10.1016/j.renene.2012.03.005

2. Turkbeyler, E., Yao, R., Nobile, R., Bentham, T. and Lim, D. (2012) The impact of urban wind environments on natural ventilation. International Journal of Ventilation, 11 (1). pp. 17-28. ISSN 1473-3315 doi: 10.5555/2044-4044-11.1.17

3. Yao, R., Luo, Q. and Li, B. (2011) A simplified mathematical model for urban microclimate simulation. Building and Environment, 46 (1). pp. 253-265. ISSN 0360-1323 doi: 10.1016/j.buildenv.2010.07.019

Conference papers and presentations

1. Yao, R., Luo, Q. and Gao, Y. (2012) Simulation of urban microclimates. In: CIBSE ASHRAE Technical Symposium, 18th and 19th April 2012, Imperial College, London UK.

2. Turkbeyler, E. and Yao, R. (2011) A study on effect of built forms on urban wind environment by using CFD simulations. In: WREC-Asia & SuDBE2011, 28-31, October 2011, Chongqing, China.

3. Turkbeyler, E., Yao, R. and Day, T. (2011) Urban microclimate and renewable energy use in cities. In: The World Renewable Energy Congress - WREC 2011, 8-13 May 2011, Sweden, pp. 3066-3073.

4. Yao R. (2010) Numerical and experimental studies of an integrated strategic simulation model for urban microclimates, 11th World Renewable Energy Congress, Abu Dhabi, UAE 25-30 Sept. 2010.

5. Turkbeyler, E. and Yao, R. (2009) Experimental study of urban microclimate for a building complex. In: The International Conference in Sustainable Development in Building and Environment, October 2009, Chongqing, China.

6. Yao R. Numerical and experimental studies on urban microclimates, Presented at the Martin Centre Seminar, the University of Cambridge, 10th November 2010.

7. Yao R. (2011) Use of solar energy in the urban context, IEA Workshop Grantham Institute for Climate Change, Imperial College, 27th September 2011.

8. Turkbeyler, E. Urban Microclimates, Presented at the School of Construction Management and Engineering Seminar, 10th March, 2011.

9. Yao R. (2012) A tool of simulation of urban heat island, British Council organised event- UK High-Tech transfer to China: Chongqing Academy of Science and Technology, Institute of Atmospheric, Design Institutions, 10-12 April, 2012.

10. Presentations to companies of architectural and urban planning (RWDI, Aedas, Hilson Moran, Atkins, WYG) in addition to the existing industrial partners.

Book chapters

1. Yao, R. and Steemers K. (2013) Modelling urban Microclimates. In: Yao, R. (ed.) Design and Management of Sustainable Built Environments. Springer, London. (In Press)

2. Contribution to the CIBSE (2006) Guide A: Environmental Design, contribution to section 2.10: Urban Heat Island.

Conferences, workshops and presentations

1. Sustainable Development in Building and Environment, Chongqing, October 2009

2. Walker Institute Climate Change Annual Meeting, July 2009

3. World Renewable Energy Congress, Abu Dhabi, September 2010

4. Cambridge University Research Seminar, August 2010

5. World Renewable Energy Congress, Sweden, May 2011

6. Sustainable Development in Building and Environment, Chongqing, October 2011

7. IEA Energy Workshop, Imperial College, London, September 2011

8. UK China Association of Resource and Environment Annual Meeting, September 2011

Stakeholder meetings
Regular meetings with stakeholders were scheduled to ensure that project objectives were continually satisfied. Stakeholders included: Aedas, WGY Group, Buro Happold, Hilson Moran, Institute of Sustainability, Weiyang and Partners; GLAS Architect, Chartered Institute of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE), Chartered institution of Buildings (CIOB), Short Associates, Max Fordham, MTT Consulting, RWDI, Mott MacDonald Fulcrum.

Associated Staff

  • Dr Stefan Thor Smith    (lead academic)
  • Erdal Turkbeyler
  • Rupali Kamat
  • Qing Luo
  • Yafeng Gao
  • Rosario Nobile
  • Jing Liu
  • Tim Lee
  • Mehdi Shahrestani

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