Passive cooling designs to improve heat resilience of homes in underserved and vulnerable communities

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Journal Article

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Disadvantaged communities face a growing threat to staying safe during heat waves, especially during coincident power outages. This study develops a methodology to evaluate the effectiveness of passive cooling measures (those that operate without power) to improve residential building heat resilience. Building performance is simulated for representative homes and on district scales in two disadvantaged communities in Fresno, California. Eleven passive measures are evaluated using four heat resilience metrics with and without grid power. Results show performance of the mitigation measures varies by building characteristics, surrounding environment, and power scenario. The two most effective measures were installing solar-control window films and adding roof insulation. For pre-1978 single-family homes, these two measures can reduce unmet degree-hours (UDH) by 12% and 11% respectively without grid power, or 28% and 37% with grid power. Their respective UDH reductions on district scale typically range 8% — 20% and 4% — 12% without grid power, or 13% — 40% and 8% — 42% with grid power. The top floors are more dangerous than lower floors during extreme heat events with coincident power outages. Natural ventilation can significantly help, reducing UDH by 21% — 26%. The methodology and findings from this study can help cities, communities, and utilities develop effective and targeted strategies to promote greater residential heat resilience.


Energy and Buildings



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