Urban Form and Thermal Efficiency: How the Design of Cities Can Influence the Urban Heat Island Effect

EPA Grant Number: U915591
Title: Urban Form and Thermal Efficiency: How the Design of Cities Can Influence the Urban Heat Island Effect
Investigators: Stone, Brian J
Institution: Georgia Institute of Technology
EPA Project Officer: Michaud, Jayne
Project Period: August 1, 1999 through August 1, 2001
Project Amount: $64,576
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (1999) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Fellowship - Urban and Regional Planning , Academic Fellowships , Economics and Decision Sciences


The overall objective of this research project is to quantify the thermal contribution of individual land parcels to the development of a surface-heat island in the metropolitan region of Atlanta, Georgia. The specific objective of this research project is to determine whether an expansive, low-density pattern of residential development produces more or less radiant heat per single-family dwelling than a compact, high-density pattern. It is hypothesized that higher density forms of residential development will contribute less thermal energy to regional heat island formation than lower density forms.


A steady increase in mean global temperatures and violent weather during the last several decades has provided circumstantial evidence that significant changes in global climate are underway. Contributing to the potential for detrimental ecological impacts in cities, in particular, is a more regionalized process of temperature change known as the urban heat island effect. Measured as the temperature differential found between urban centers and their rural peripheries, the urban heat island effect is produced following the displacement of vegetation by urban construction materials such as asphalt, cement, and roofing shingle (Oke, 1987). Unable to offset heat gain through the natural cooling process of evapotranspiration, nonvegetative materials absorb large quantities of heat during the daylight hours. The slow release of this stored heat energy elevates urban temperatures by several degrees compared to temperatures in adjacent rural areas. The thermal "islands" that result from this temperature differential have substantial implications for energy consumption, urban air quality, ecosystem vitality, and human health (Cardelino and Chameides, 1990).

Supplemental Keywords:

fellowship, urban heat island effect, climate change, urban design., RFA, Scientific Discipline, Air, climate change, Air Pollution Effects, Urban and Regional Planning, Atmosphere, environmental monitoring, infrastructure systems, anthropogenic stress, heat island effects, consequences of vegetation change, thermal stress, urban growth, global warming, Global Climate Change

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2000
  • Final