The influence of trees and grass on outdoor thermal comfort in a hot-arid environment

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Abstract

The effects of vegetation on human thermal stress in a hot-arid region were tested in two semi-enclosed urban spaces with various combinations of mature trees, grass, overhead shading mesh and paving. The index of thermal stress was calculated hourly from measured meteorological data in the studied sites to evaluate thermal comfort in the different spaces based on radiative and convective pedestrian–environment energy exchanges and sweat efficiency, and expressed on a thermal sensation scale ranging from ‘comfortable’ to ‘very hot’. The efficiency of water use in providing improved comfort was gauged for each of the vegetative landscaping treatments by comparing the total evapotranspiration with the reduction in thermal stress, both expressed in terms of their values in equivalent energy. While conditions in a paved, unshaded courtyard were found to be uncomfortable throughout the daytime hours (with half of these hours defined by severe discomfort), each of the landscape treatments made a clear contribution to improved thermal comfort. With shading, either by trees or mesh, discomfort was reduced in duration by over half and limited in maximum severity when the shading was placed above paving. When combined with grass, both shading mechanisms yielded comfortable conditions at all hours. In both cases, the effect of trees was more pronounced than that of the mesh, but by a small margin. With unshaded grass, ‘hot’ conditions in the courtyard were restricted to a short period in mid-afternoon, a considerable improvement over unshaded paving, attributable mainly to the lower radiant surface temperatures. Copyright © 2010 Royal Meteorological Society

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