A review of mitigating strategies to improve the thermal environment and thermal comfort in urban outdoor spaces

Dayi Lai, Wenyu Liu, Tingting Gan, Kuixing Liu, Qingyan Chen

Research output: Journal article publicationReview articleAcademic researchpeer-review

443 Citations (Scopus)


Urban open space provides various benefits to citizens, but the thermal environment of this space is impacted by global warming and urban heat islands. A growing number of studies have been conducted on strategies for improving the urban thermal environment and attracting more people to outdoor spaces. This paper reviews the mechanisms and cooling effects of four major mitigation strategies, namely, changing the urban geometry, planting vegetation, using cool surface, and incorporating bodies of water. Our review found that on summer days these four strategies yielded a median reduction in air temperature of 2.1 K, 2.0 K, 1.9 K, and 1.8 K, respectively. In terms of integrated effect on thermal comfort, changing the urban geometry provided the greatest improvement, with the largest reduction in physiologically equivalent temperature (PET) in summer (median ΔPET = 18.0 K). The use of vegetation and water bodies reduced the median PET by 13.0 K and 4.6 K, respectively. However, some simulation studies found that reflective surface led to higher PET in summer because of the increased amount of reflected solar radiation. The mitigation strategies improved the urban thermal environment to a greater extent in hotter and drier climates. Vegetation, cool surface, and water bodies provided less cooling in compact urban spaces than in open areas. The results that we reviewed can be used by designers and planners seeking to create thermally comfortable urban open spaces.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)337-353
Number of pages17
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 15 Apr 2019


  • Cool surface
  • Outdoor thermal comfort
  • Urban geometry
  • Urban heat island
  • Vegetation
  • Water body

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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