Influence of climate change on summer cooling costs and heat stress in urban office buildings

Abstract

Indoor climatic conditions are strongly influenced by outdoor meteorological conditions. It is thus expected that the combined effect of climate change and the urban heat island effect negatively influences working conditions in urban office buildings. Since office buildings are particularly vulnerable to overheating because of the profound internal heat gains, this is all the more relevant. The overheating in office buildings leads to elevated cooling costs or, because additional work breaks are required by legislation in some countries, productivity losses. We have developed a methodology incorporating urban climate modelling and building energy simulations to assess cooling costs and lost working hours in office buildings, both for current-day and future climate, extending towards the end of the twenty-first century. The methodology is tailored to additionally assess the impact and benefits of adaptation measures, and it is designed to be transferable from one city to another. Results for a prototype building located in three different European cities (Antwerp, Bilbao and London) illustrate the challenge in keeping Western-European office buildings comfortable until the end of the twenty-first century without adaptation measures, and the beneficial effect of adequate adjustments. The results further illustrate the large decreases in cooling costs (up to 30%) caused by the introduction of (external) shading and increased night-time ventilation in actively cooled buildings, and the improvements in working conditions in free-running buildings caused by moving workers to cooler locations and splitting workdays in morning and evening shifts.

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Acknowledgements

The work described in this paper has received funding from the European Community’s 7th Framework Program under grant agreement nos. 308497 (RAMSES) and 308299 (NACLIM). The work in this paper reflects the authors’ views. The authors thank Ryan Waters and Joel Parker at Seneca Consultants for the underlying research on worker productivity loss functions.

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Correspondence to Hans Hooyberghs.

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Hooyberghs, H., Verbeke, S., Lauwaet, D. et al. Influence of climate change on summer cooling costs and heat stress in urban office buildings. Climatic Change 144, 721–735 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-017-2058-1

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