Sustainicum Collection

Consus The aim of the project is to establish a regional science-society network for sustainability innovations in Albania and Kosovo in order to strengthen the connection and collaboration of institutions in the field of higher education, research and practice.

Resource facts

  • Less than 5 students
    5 to 10 students
  • 4-7 lecture units
  • Internet connection necessary
  • English, German

Resource Description

Instruction file

Additional attachments

Energy balance and energy flows in the environment- Influence of surface albedo and on ground surface temperature(Resource ID: 199)

This building block handles the very topical current issue of the influence of albedo on heat generation in cities and metropolitan areas. The building block includes instructions for conducting an experiment that shows the influence of surface albedo on the energy balance. Furthermore, the experiment demonstrates the effects on surface temperature and describes the basic conditions under which the experiment can be conducted.

Authors: Prof. Dr. Philipp Weihs, Prof. Dr.  Josef Eitzinger, Ing. Wolfgang Laube

Basic concept of the building block

The following experiment, which can be carried out on various homogeneous paved surfaces, demonstrates the influence of surface reflection (Albedo) on ground surface temperature. Students should be able to understand the differences between the radiation balances of light and dark paved surfaces, as well as be able to measure and quantify this.

Description of the building block

This building block handles the very topical issue of albedo’s influence on heat generation in cities and metropolitan areas. Multiple recently published studies show that changes in the surface albedo in urban structures can lead to local air temperature changes of 1 to 2 degrees. Over-heating of cities in summer leads to an increased energy consumption due to the increased use of air conditioners in buildings and vehicles. Appropriate changes to surface area design can reduce the heat strain and with it the use of non-renewable energy resources.

The measurements consider the spatial and temporal dynamic of energy flows in our environment and can be conducted over a one-day timespan (cloudless conditions necessary).

The temporal variability of the energy balance components, as well as the radiation balance, is examined with the help of measurements taken with a two-component net radiometer (measurement of shortwave radiation upward and downward -Albedo- and measurement of long wave radiation upward and downward).

The two-component net radiometer is mounted on a tripod and positioned alternatingly (every 10 minutes) over a lighter and a darker area. The measured data is visualized using a Campbell datalogger and related software.

The visualized data makes the differences between the short wave and long wave radiation balances over the two surfaces clear. If the natural surroundings do not provide sufficient albedo differences, two specially prepared Styrofoam surfaces painted black and white, simulating strong and weak reflecting surfaces, can be used instead.

The surfaces of the BOKU trial site in Groß-Enzersdorf or at the Exner building provide good trial areas. If circumstances demand, reference surfaces such as the Styrofoam surfaces or a painted surface can be used to artificially measure the albedo.

The building block is divided into four steps:

Step 1: Directions to conducting the experiment

Step 2: Setting-up the experiment

Step 3: Conducting experiment

Step 4: Analyzing and interpreting the data

Contact details for borrowing physical devices
Institut of Meteorology; Wilhelm Exner Building, 1st Floor; Peter Jordan Strasse 82, A-1190 Wien
Learning Outcomes
The course materials include:
• Short instructions to the building block
• Course materials (PowerPoint presentation)
• Recommendations for implementing the building block into the course
• Bibliography and links
Relevance for Sustainability
Changes to the radiation and energy balance can decrease the influence of climate change.
Related Teaching Resources
    Preparation Efforts
    Sources and Links

    1) Hans Käckel, 1993: Meteorologie, 402 s, Verlag Eugen Ulme, Stuttgart

    2) Doulos L, Santamouris M, Livada I. Passive Cooling of outdoor urban spaces. The role of materials. Sol Energy 2004;77(2):231-249.

    3) Kikegawa, Y; Genchi, Y; Kondo, H; et al. 2006: Impacts of city-block-scale countermeasures against urban heat-island phenomena upon a building's energy-consumption for air-conditioning, APPLIED ENERGY  Volume: 83   Issue: 6   Pages: 649-668

    4) M. Santamouris, N. Gaitani, A. Spanou, M. Saliari, K. Giannopoulou, K. Vasilakopoulou, T. Kardomateas, 2012: Using cool paving materials to improve microclimate of urban areas e Design realization and results of the flisvos project. Building and Environment 53 (2012) 128-136

    5) Synnefa A, Karlessi T, Gaitani N, Santamouris M, Assimakopoulos DN, Papakatsikas C. On the optical and thermal performance of cool colored thin layer asphalt used to improve urban microclimate and reduce the energy consumption of buildings. Build Environ 2011;46(1):38-44

    6) Tremeac, B., Bousquet, P,  de Munck, C., Pigeon, G., Masson, V.,  Marchadier, C.,  Merchat, M.,  Poeuf, P., Meunier, F., 2012; Influence of air conditioning management on heat island in Paris air street temperatures, APPLIED ENERGY  Volume: 95 Pages: 102-110

    7) Zinzi M. Cool materials and cool roofs: Potentialities in Mediterranean buildings. Adv Build Energ Res 2010;4(1):201-266.

    8) Zinzi M, Carlo Romeo, 2012: Impact of a cool roof application on the energy and comfort performance in an existing non-residential building. A Sicilian case study, Energ Build, in press.

    Funded by
    Funded by the Austrian Federal Ministry of Science and Research within the framework of the call "Projekt MINT-Massenfächer" (2011/12)

    Comments Write Comment


    Philipp Weihs


    Philipp Weihs
    This teaching resource is allocated to following University:
    BOKU - University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Vienna
    Institute of Meteorology (BOKU Vienna)


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    Teaching Tools & Methods

    • Mini-project
    • formteaching_experiment