Energy saving potential of fragmented green spaces due to their temperature regulating ecosystem services in the summer

Fanhua Kong, Changfeng Sun, Fengfeng Liu, Haiwei Yin, Fei Jiang, Yingxia Pu, Gina Cavan, Cynthia Skelhorn, Ariane Middel, Iryna Dronova

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

69 Scopus citations


Urban green spaces help to moderate the urban heat island (UHI) effects, and can provide important temperature regulating ecosystem services and opportunities for savings in cooling energy. However, because explicit market values for these benefits are still lacking, they are rarely incorporated into urban planning actions. Green spaces can generate a three-dimensional (3D) cool island that may reduce the cooling energy requirements within and around urban areas, but such 3D cooling effect has not been considered in previous studies quantifying energy savings from green spaces. This study presents a new and simple approach to quantify potential energy savings due to the temperature regulating ecosystem services of small-scale fragmented green spaces using the 3D simulation of the summer-day outdoor thermal environment in Nanjing, China. Field survey data and the microclimate model ENVI-met were applied to examine the outdoor 3D thermal environmental patterns at Gulou Campus of Nanjing University under two different scenarios: “with” and “without” green spaces. Modeling results were applied to quantify potential cooling energy savings based on the effect of green spaces on the outdoor urban environment and to calculate the cumulative temperature reduction due to green spaces using a regression model. The results show that, in the horizontal direction, the simulated distribution of wind speed and mean air temperature at 1.5 m height were closely related to the spatial distribution of the underlying surface types. Removal of green spaces increased mean air temperature by 0.5 °C (33.1 °C vs. 33.6 °C). In the vertical direction, removal of green spaces had little effect on the near-surface wind field; however, above the surface, the turbulence perpendicular to the main wind direction significantly increased. Quantification of the cooling benefits of green spaces in relation to the mean height of buildings on Gulou Campus yielded 5.2 W/m2 cooling energy, saving totally 1.3 × 104 kW h during a single daytime hot summer period. This case study corroborates the importance of green space for cooling and informs city planners and decision-makers on how microclimate is impacted by the loss of green spaces. These findings will facilitate preservation, planning, and design of green spaces to increase urban environmental benefits and to improve the microclimate of urban areas at neighborhood, city, and regional scales.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1428-1440
Number of pages13
JournalApplied Energy
StatePublished - Dec 1 2016


  • 3D-thermal environment
  • ENVI-met model
  • Energy saving
  • Green space
  • Temperature regulating ecosystem services
  • Urban heat island

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Building and Construction
  • Energy(all)
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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