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A Preliminary Study on the Impacts of Climate Change

PI: Joseph Lam
Institution: City University of Hong Kong
It is generally believed that our climate is changing and that the average temperatures will probably increase over the next few decades. What is less clear is “how would temperature rise affect the designs and energy performance of buildings”? Buildings account for a significant part of total energy use, up to nearly half in developed countries. In China, building stocks accounted for about 30% of the total primary energy requirement in early 2000s and, with rapid economic growth and improvements in the living standards, would continue to be a major energy end-user. Buildings last for 50 years or more. A good understanding of the impacts of climate change on the built environment is essential in the design and analysis of energy-efficient buildings, if these buildings are to maintain good thermal and energy performance well into the middle or even later half of this century. This work is to investigate the effects of temperature rise on the designs of buildings in different climate zones in China. Particular attention will be given to passive design strategies such as passive solar heating, natural ventilation, thermal mass and evaporative cooling. The findings would help architects and engineers make a more informed decision, especially during the initial conceptual design stage.

In China, there are five major climatic types - severe cold, cold, hot summer & cold winter, mild, and hot summer & warm winter. Because of the varying topology, there are nine regions – both the severe cold and cold climates have three regions. To strike a balance between keeping the analysis manageable and achieving a broad representation of the prevailing climate types in China, a total of 18 cities are selected for this study - five in the severe cold climate region, four cold, five hot summer & cold winter, one mild and three hot summer & warm winter. The criteria of selection are based on:

1) Cities must have local meteorological stations and measured weather data such as temperature, relative humidity, solar radiation, wind speed, etc. are available.

2) Cities selected should cover the major climatic types/categories identified, and have a reasonably even geographical distribution.

Temperature has a direct impact on the thermal and energy performance of buildings, emphasis, therefore, will be on the availability of monthly temperature data (mean, minimum and maximum). The grid-box covering each of the 18 cities will be determined (initially, we would consider the 70o-140oE & 15o-55oN, the East Asia region data). Grid-box variables output from different GCMs will be downloaded and compared. Direct comparison may not be possible because these models tend to have different spatial/horizontal resolutions and varying modeling/prediction time-frames. The grid-box/grid-point data will be interpolated to achieve the predictions for the 18 cities using statistical method (e.g. Gradient plus Inverse-Distance-Squared). For each city, the interpolated data (mainly mean monthly mean, minimum and maximum dry-bulb temperatures) will be used to determine the 12 monthly climatic lines for the bioclimatic analysis of major design strategies. These will be compared with the bioclimatic design charts based on 30-year (1971-2000) long-term observed weather data. Impact on the potential of passive design strategies (e.g. passive solar heating and natural ventilation) will be assessed. We will try to quantify the impact with the likely changes in passive design potentials. For instance, passive solar design potential in Beijing is about 25% (i.e. 25% of the colder half of the year October-March, no conventional space heating will be required if proper passive solar design is adopted), temperature rise could increase the passive solar potential. Likewise, passive cooling design potential using natural ventilation and thermal mass techniques in Shanghai could be reduced due to warmer weather and more frequent extreme temperatures during the hot summer period. Due consideration will be given to the adaptive issue when constructing comfort zones on the bioclimatic charts.


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    Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory  |  Physical & Life Sciences Directorate