Assessing the impact of a changing climate on building energy performance and thermal comfort in U of T buildings

Marianne Touchie and Paul Kushner

  • The objective of this project is to determine how a changing climate will impact the performance of buildings at U of T and identify ways in which these buildings should be retrofit to improve climate resilience.  It will begin with the development of energy models of representative buildings on the U of T St. George campus using current weather files.  These models will be calibrated using existing energy data collected by Facilities and Services and with indoor environmental data from building automation systems and supplementary indoor temperature monitoring.  Weather files that reflect future climate scenario impact on heating, cooling, heat-exposure, and other environmental characteristics will then be developed. This will include an effort to characterize the uncertainty brought about by differences in projected climate change from the CMIP5 and CMIP6 global climate model archives. A select number of representative scenarios will then be identified and be used to re-run the energy models.  The implications on building energy use and thermal comfort on the case study buildings will be analyzed.  Through a parametric analysis on certain building features, recommendations for potential retrofit measures will determined.  Finally, a high-level estimate of future campus-wide building energy consumption will be made based on energy consumption normalized to exterior temperatures.  The results of this project will yield a modeling methodology to assess the retrofit potential of buildings on campus as well as an estimate of the severity of the impact of climate change on campus-wide energy use.  

Marianne Touchie (PI)
Marianne Touchie (PI)

Impact of climate change on wind loading on the built environment, employing climate simulation and computational fluid dynamics across scales

Oya Mercan and Paul Kushner


  • A key challenge in modern engineering practice is to incorporate the anticipated impacts of climate change in design of built infrastructure. Climate models provide information on large scales (terrain and greater scales) that must be brought down to the urban scale (neighbourhood/downtown core scales) to be actionable in design decisions. In this project, we will explore the interface of turbulence modelling at the large scale and at the urban scale. We will explore how turbulent processes are represented in climate simulations and in computational fluid dynamic simulations used for wind engineering, and seek to understand the relationships between the two types of modelling. Terrain-scale output from regional climate model simulations will be used to analyze changes in wind extremes associated with anticipated increase in strong precipitation events expected under climate change. This output will be quality controlled and adjusted to provide a range of plausible scenarios for CFD simulations on test cases of buildings in the downtown core of Toronto and other urban centres. A focus on the dual scales will enhance the accuracy of both wind tunnel simulations as well as climate model predictions. This project promises to be a unique and important contribution to bridge the gap between climate science and wind engineering.

Oya Mercan (PI)
Oya Mercan (PI)

Traffic-related pilot project

Daniel Posen and Heather MacLean

Project #1:

  • In recent years, there has been increasing attention paid   toward understanding the global “carbon budget” and national scale GHG emission targets, along with their impact on the global climate system. Less work has investigated appropriate setting of regional climate targets, nor the limits of regional GHG mitigation potential. This research will create a set of technical metrics to help inform the setting of regional climate targets, for example by accounting for the regional availability of renewable resources (e.g., wind, solar and biomass energy) in function of the future climate. Particular emphasis will be placed on the net GHG mitigation potential of ‘emerging technologies’ such as biofuels and large-scale penetration of renewable electricity sources for different regions and at different spatial scales. Technical and economic limits to GHG mitigation   will then be coupled with estimated local/regional benefits associated with international climate change mitigation efforts to establish a new framework   for regional GHG mitigation targets. 

Project #2:  

  • The goal of this project is to investigate the potential for outreach education at the high school and undergraduate level can drive reductions in urban GHG emissions through local and regional scale behavioural change. Components of the research include: 


       1) Improving urban GHG inventories to understand key sources of community-based GHG emissions. Key sub-contributions include:

  • a. The incorporation of uncertainty into urban GHG inventories
  • b. Quantification of “Scope 3” emissions (supply-chain / life cycle GHG emissions that fall outside the typical scope of reported urban GHG emissions)
  • c. Estimation of community GHG emissions different spatial scales (e.g., by census division, by city and by metropolitan area).

           2) Using the results of task 1, develop a set of implementable pro-environmental actions at the local/individual scale and quantify their total GHG mitigation potential.


    3) Develop and test methods for educating the public (with a focus on young adults) on the fundamentals of climate science and most effective individual climate actions. 

  • a. As part of this task, the PhD student responsible for this project will help develop and lead a DEEP summer course to educate high school students on climate science and mitigation. The resulting outcomes will determine the extent to which local action initiatives can achieve deep reductions in regional GHG emissions, and effective strategies for educating the next generation regarding these actions 

Daniel Posen (PI)
Daniel Posen (PI)