Assessing the influence of street configurations on human thermal conditions in open balconies in the Mediterranean climate


Heat stress in the built environment has become a serious health and comfort issue, given the increases in Urban Heat Island effects, and augmenting impacts associated to climate change. This study deals with the potential correlations between human thermal conditions, the encircling microclimate, and the physical structure of the city. Through long-term numerical simulations, the disclosed study analyses the influence of the urban street configurations on the thermal bioclimate within urban canyons, specifically upon open balconies in the most populated district of Barcelona: The Eixample. The simulated thermal conditions were carried out in the human biometeorological RayMan Pro model using local climatic data, to determine the Physiologically Equivalent Temperature (PET) within four generated scenarios, with similar morphological properties of the Eixample district.

The findings reveal that streets with axes oriented NS and SE-NW provide the best thermal conditions for balconies, achieving acceptable PET values (18 °C < PET <29 °C) on both façades. On the other hand, EW streets presented high thermal stress conditions (over 43,4% of the time) for those balconies located in the north side of the canyon. Open balconies at heights below 12 metres are the most comfortable ones during summer daytime, with acceptable thermal conditions that range between 50,4% and 82,5% of the time. The highest frequencies of acceptable thermal conditions were found on balconies located at 6 metres and 9 metres high on the east, south and southeast façades of the NS, EW and NE-SW oriented streets respectively (from 77% to 83% of the time). These configurations provide the most suitable thermal conditions during the studied summer periods by having frequencies of heat stress below 20%.

Our results and recommendations contribute to bridge the gap between human biometeorology, public health, and architectural and urban planning. Some areas of its direct application are the use of balconies in periods of confinement; decision-making on the sale or rental of apartments; and the promotion of bioclimatic retrofit projects at an urban and architectural scale supported by local governments.

Urban canyon configurations, Open balconies, Vertical microclimate, RayMan Pro simulations, Outdoor thermal comfort, Public health