Biological and Environmental Research - Earth and Environmental System Sciences
Earth and Environmental System Modeling
12 February 2021

City-Scale Building Anthropogenic Heating during Heat Waves

A bottom-up approach to quantify the anthropogenic heating from buildings under extreme heat events.


We developed a methodology for modeling urban building energy demand and associated anthropogenic heat during city-scale heat waves.  We examined the spatial and temporal variation in anthropogenic waste heat from buildings in Los Angeles as a function of building type, urban microclimate, and large-scale climate conditions.


The method provides a high-resolution representation of the magnitude and distributions of the buildings’ anthropogenic heating profiles under extreme heat. The results serve as a fundamental step toward a continued investigation of the feedback between building waste heat fluxes and urban microclimate dynamics during extreme heat events.


More frequent and longer duration heat waves have been observed worldwide and are recognized as a serious threat to human health and the stability of electrical grids. Past studies have identified positive feedback between heat waves and urban heat island effects. Anthropogenic heat emissions from buildings have a crucial impact on the urban environment, and hence it is important to understand the interactive effects of urban microclimate and building heat emissions in terms of the urban energy balance. Here we developed a coupled-simulation approach to quantify these effects, mapping urban environmental data generated by the mesoscale Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) coupled to Urban Canopy Model (UCM) to urban building energy models (UBEM). We conducted a case study in the city of Los Angeles, California, during a five-day heatwave event in September 2009. We analyzed the surge in city-scale building heat emission and energy use during the extreme heat event. We first simulated the urban microclimate at a high resolution (500 m by 500 m) using WRF-UCM. We then generated grid-level building heat emission profiles and aggregated them using prototype building energy models informed by spatially disaggregated urban land use and urban building density data. The spatial patterns of anthropogenic heat discharge from the building sector were analyzed, and the quantitative relationship with weather conditions and urban land-use dynamics were assessed at the grid level. The simulation results indicate that the dispersion of anthropogenic heat from urban buildings to the urban environment increases by up to 20% on average and varies significantly, both in time and space, during the heatwave event. The heat dispersion from the air-conditioning heat rejection contributes most (86.5%) of the total waste heat from the buildings to the urban environment. We also found that the waste heat discharge in inland, dense urban districts is more sensitive to extreme events than it is in coastal or suburban areas. The generated anthropogenic heat profiles can be used in urban microclimate models to provide a more accurate estimation of urban air temperature rises during heat waves.

Andrew D. Jones
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Luo, X, P Vahmani, T Hong, and A Jones.  2020.  "City-Scale Building Anthropogenic Heating during Heat Waves."  Atmosphere 11(11): 1206.