Heat Islands, Trees, and Kilowatts: Understanding the Relationship Between Residential Energy Consumption, Urban Form, and Environmental Health Detriments

Authors: Jackson Voelkel*, Sustaining Urban Places Research Lab
Topics: Spatial Analysis & Modeling, Geographic Information Science and Systems, Urban Geography
Keywords: energy, trees, urban, UHI, heat, islands, regression
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/13/2018
Start / End Time: 5:20 PM / 7:00 PM
Room: Proteus, Sheraton, 8th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


A positive feedback loop exists between environmental detriments and our attempts to relieve ourselves of them. Variable, highly-concentrated heat and energy consumption in cities can help drive one another: as residents feel the physiological stresses of summer-time temperatures they are more likely increase their energy consumption in the form of air conditioning (thus driving the demand for electricity production). In order to break the cycle, we must first determine to what degree intra-urban temperature variations drive residential energy consumption.

This paper assesses residents in the Portland Metropolitan Area who live in urban heat islands and their energy consumption patterns compared to their 'cool' counterparts. To accomplish this, I employ household-level monthly energy consumption data, high-resolution tree canopy data, building structural variables, and spatial regression. I build upon the existing urban heat exposure/disparity literature by introducing the increased energy burden of residents already experiencing extreme heat. Furthermore, I introduce novel methods of model visualization that can easily help planning practitioners understand the effects of urban tree canopy on heat and residential energy consumption.

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