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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Modeling Thermal Interactions between Buildings in an Urban Context †


Thermal interactions through longwave radiation exchange between buildings, especially in a dense urban environment, can strongly influence a building’s energy use and environmental impact. However, these interactions are either neglected or oversimplified in urban building energy modeling. We developed a new feature in EnergyPlus to explicitly consider this term in the surface heat balance calculations and developed an algorithm to batch calculating the surrounding surfaces’ view factors using a ray-tracing technique. We conducted a case study with a district in the Chicago downtown area to evaluate the longwave radiant heat exchange effects between urban buildings. Results show that the impact of the longwave radiant effects on annual energy use ranges from 0.1% to 3.3% increase for cooling and 0.3% to 3.6% decrease for heating, varying among individual buildings. At the district level, the total energy demand increases by 1.39% for cooling and decreases 0.45% for heating. We also observe the longwave radiation can increase the exterior surface temperature by up to 10 ◦C for certain exterior surfaces. These findings justify a detailed and accurate way to consider the thermal interactions between buildings in an urban context to inform urban planning and design.

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