Materials consumption, indoor thermal comfort and associated energy flows of urban residential buildings: Case studies from the cold climate zone of China

Zhen Peng, Wu Deng, Yuanda Hong

Research output: Journal PublicationArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: From the 2000s onward, construction practices of urban residential buildings in China have shown a material transformation from clay brick to aerated concrete block. Moreover, the consumption of insulating materials for buildings has been increasing due to the new requirements in building energy-saving standards. This transformation and the increased consumption of insulating materials might have a vital impact on a building’s thermal comfort and its associated energy flows. Therefore, the purpose of this paper is to investigate the indoor thermal performance of urban residential buildings built with different materials and further discuss the correlations between indoor thermal comfort and the associated energy input. Design/methodology/approach: This study investigated four residential buildings selected from four residential communities located in the cold climate zone of China. The Integrated Environment Solutions program was used to evaluate the thermal comfort levels and to quantify the operational energy consumption of the case study buildings. Additionally, the University of Bath’s Inventory of Carbon and Energy database was used to estimate the embodied energy consumption and CO2 emissions. Findings: The study found that materials transition and increasing consumption did not necessarily improve indoor thermal comfort. However, the materials transition has significantly decreased the embodied energy consumption of urban residential buildings. Furthermore, the increased utilization of insulating materials has also decreased the heating and cooling energy consumption. Therefore, overall, the environmental impacts of urban residential buildings have been reduced significantly. Practical implications: In the future, residential buildings completed in the 1990s will need regular maintenance, such as adding insulation. Residential buildings completed based on the latest energy-saving requirements should optimize their ventilation design, for example, by increasing the ventilation rate and by reducing solar heat gains in the summer. Originality/value: This paper investigates the effects of the materials change on thermal comfort levels and the environmental impacts of urban residential buildings in the cold climate zone of China, as these have not been the focus of many previous studies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)579-596
Number of pages18
JournalInternational Journal of Building Pathology and Adaptation
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 5 Sept 2019


  • Associated energy inputs
  • Cold climate zone
  • Materials transformation
  • Urban residential buildings

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Building and Construction


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