Arrangement Of Street And Buildings Affects Heat In Cities

Posted: Feb 24 2018, 3:01am CST | by , Updated: Feb 24 2018, 3:03am CST, in News | Latest Science News

Arrangement of Street and Buildings Affects Heat in Cities
Credit: MIT

Urban planners can reduce extra heat by designing cities on classical physics formulas

The way streets and buildings are arranged in a city makes a big difference in how heat builds up. The new study offers urban planners new ways to reduce the heat cities may experience due to climate change.

Cities show distinctly warmer temperatures—known as the urban heat island effect—than rural areas surrounding them. And new research suggests that this heat build-up greatly depends on the layout and design of streets and buildings of each city. For example, cities like New York and Chicago are laid out in a precise manner, like the atoms in a crystal, while others such as Boston or London are arranged more chaotically, like the disordered atoms in a liquid or glass. Researchers suggest that chaotic, glass-like cities accumulate less amount of heat compared to the organized, crystalline cities and these differences in city patterns, which they call "texture," are most important to determine a city's heat island effect.

As the earth continues to warm due to greenhouse gases, heat is expected to become more severe particularly for cities where urban building materials such as concrete and asphalt can absorb heat during the day and radiate it back at night. The effect can be quite dramatic because it can add as much as 10 degrees Fahrenheit to night-time temperatures in places such as Phoenix, Arizona. But until now little is known about how the design of a city can affect its heat.

MIT researchers used mathematical models to analyze atomic structures in materials and located the positions of atoms within them. They then applied the results to patterns of buildings determined from satellite images of 47 cities in the U.S. and other countries, which led to a straightforward formula to describe how a city's design would influence its overall heat build-up.

Designing different cities on classical physics formulas could help minimize extra heating.

“We use tools of classical statistical physics,” said senior research scientist Roland Pellenq from MIT. “This gives a strategy for urban planners… If you're planning a new section of Phoenix, you don't want to build on a grid, since it's already a very hot place. But somewhere in Canada, a mayor may say no, we'll choose to use the grid, to keep the city warmer."

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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