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Introducing Degree Days to Building Thermal Climatic Zoning in China

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Building thermal climatic zoning is a key issue in building energy efficiency. Heating degree days (HDD) and cooling degree days (CDD) are often employed as indexes to represent the heating and cooling energy demand in climatic zoning. However, only using degree days may oversimplify the climatic zoning in regions with complex climatic conditions. In the present study, the application of degree days to current building thermal climatic zoning in China was assessed based on performance simulations. To investigate the key indexes for thermal climatic zoning, the climate characteristics of typical cities were analyzed and the relationships between the climate indexes and heating/cooling demand were obtained. The results reveal that the annual cumulative heating load had a linear correlation with HDD18 only in regions with small differences in altitude. Therefore, HDD is unsuitable for representing the heating demand in regions with large differences in altitude. A comprehensive index (winter climatic severity index) should be employed instead of HDD, or complementary indexes (daily global solar radiation or altitude) could be used to further divide climate zones. In the current official climatic zoning, the base temperature of 26°C for CDD is excessively high. The appropriate base temperature range is 18°C to 22°C. This study provides a reference for selecting indexes to improve thermal climatic zoning in regions with similar climates.

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I :

monthly average global solar radiation for the winter months/kWh·m−2

I a :

annual global solar radiation/kWh·m−2

T a :

base temperature for calculating heating degree days/°C

T b :

base temperature for calculating cooling degree days/°C

T av :

average air temperature/°C

T max :

average air temperature in the hottest month/°C

T min :

average air temperature in the coldest month/°C

T i :

daily average air temperature/°C


cooling degree days


cold zone


heating degree days


hot summer and cold winter zone


hot summer and warm winter zone


mild zone


severe cold zone


winter climatic severity index


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We would like to acknowledge financial supports for this work provided by National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 51838011, 52078407).

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Correspondence to Liu Yang.

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Liu, Y., Wen, Z., Lyu, K. et al. Introducing Degree Days to Building Thermal Climatic Zoning in China. J. Therm. Sci. 32, 1155–1170 (2023).

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