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
  • 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 albedo and shading on the spatial distribution of ground surface temperatures(Resource ID: 203)

This building block offers a guide to conducting an experiment (described below). A description of the basic conditions under which the experiment should be conducted is also included. The influence of surface albedo and shading on the energy balance and subsequently on the temperature of a surface area is demonstrated by the experiment described below.

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

Basic concept of the building block

The following experiment, which should be conducted on a homogeneous surface, demonstrates the influence of surface reflection (albedo) and shading on the spatial distribution of ground surface temperatures. Students should be able to understand the difference between the radiation balances of light and dark paved surfaces, as well as the influence of shading on the radiation balance. Furthermore, students should be able to measure and quantify these phenomena.

Description of the building block

The following experiment, which should be conducted on a homogeneous paved surface, demonstrates the influence of albedo and shade on spatial surface area temperature. The measurements can be taken within a time frame of one day (cloudless conditions necessary). By measuring the temperature of a surface area with the help of a thermal camera (positioned from above), spatial differences in temperature across a surface become visible.

Thermal pictures are taken of a homogeneous paved surface. Black and white Styrofoam surfaces are placed next to each other on top of the paved surface in order to simulate a high and a low albedo and the corresponding influence on ground surface temperature. At the same time or after the first experiment, a shade-casting object (e.g. a car or small piece of furniture) is positioned on the paved surface. The influence of shading on the ground surface temperature will slowly become visible in the thermal images.

The building block is divided into four steps:

Step 1: Directions for conducting the experiment

Step 2: Setting-up the experiment

Step 3: Conducting the experiment

Step 4: Analyzing and interpreting the data

Course materials include:

  • Short instructions to the building block
  • Recommendations for implementing the building block in the course
  • Bibliography and links
Learning Outcomes
This building block is appropriate for all courses that are hands-on and exercise-oriented, as well as focus on the balance of energy, radiation and heat generation. Students should be able to understand the differences in radiation balance between lighter and darker paved surfaces as well as the influence of shading on the radiation balance. Furthermore, students should be able to quantify these phenomena using measurements.
Relevance for Sustainability
A particularly topical current issue is the over-heating of big cities. This occurs due to a change in the radiation and energy balance because of the many paved surfaces. This over-heating can be combatted through sensible city planning and design and by using cooling effects from, for example, shade, to change the radiation and energy balance.
This building block shows two possible influencing factors of cooling using real experiments:
a) The influence of Albedo on the energy balance. The more energy that is reflected back in the direction of the atmosphere and space, the less energy remains in the system and contributes to the heating of the ground surface area.
b) The influence of shade. A large portion of radiate energy comes as “direct solar radiation” to the ground surface area. In order to protect a particular location from over-heating, certain measures such as planting trees or implementing sun protection measures to produce shade can contribute to a local cooling.
Related Teaching Resources
    Preparation Efforts
    Sources and Links


    1) Hans Häckel, 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.


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

    2) Faltis, Cecylia, 2008 Einfluss von schwarzen Hagelnetzen auf das Mikroklima in einer Südtiroler Apfelanlage, Diplomarbeit, Fakultät für Lebenswissenschaften, Universität Wien 

    3) G. Holzapfel, P. Weihs, L. Stockreiter, and E. Hoffmann (2012): Determination of the Annual Shading Potential of Salix Purpurea Coppice using Hemispherical Photographs . [Poster] [EGU General Assembly 2012, Vienna, 22.-27. April 2012] , Geophysical Research Abstracts, 14, 7879-7879

    4) Gerda Holzapfel, Philipp Weihs, Hans Peter Rauch, Florin Florineth (2012): The shading potential of salix purpurea TO Quantify specific ecologic engineering effects. Soil Bio- and Eco-Engineering The Use of Vegetation to Improve Slope Stability, Jul 23-27, 2012, Vancouver, Kanada

    5) Holzapfel, G; Weihs, P; Florineth, F (2012): Influences of Riparian Vegetation on the Ecology of River Systems - Shading Effects of Riparian Vegetation. [9th international Symposium on Ecohydraulics 2012, Vienna, Austria, Sept 17-21, 2012] In: Institute of Water Management, Hydrology and Hydraulic Engineering - University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna, ISE 2012 Proceedings

    6) Trimmel, H; Weihs, P; Formayer, H; Holzapfel, G; Rauch, HP; Dossi, F; Graf, W; Leitner, P; Melcher, A; (2013): Methods of modeling the energy fluxes of low land rivers including the shading effect of river geometry and riparian vegetation. [Poster]
    [14.Österreichischer Klimatag, Vienna, Austria, APR 4-5, 2013] In: Climate Change Center Austria CCCA, Klima- und Energiefond gemeinsam mit Universität für Bodenkultur Wien, 14.Klimatag,,

    7) Regina Matzi, 1994: Auswirkungen von Straßenbauten in schutzwürdigen Gebieten Kärntens:der Klimafaktor Naturwissenschaftlicher Verein für Kärnten, Austria, download unter Carinthia II 184./104. Jahrgang S.143-156 Klagenfurt 1994


    Projekt Bio_clic: Das Potential der Ufervegetation zur Minderung von Effekten des Klimawandels auf biologische Lebensgemeinschaften kleiner bis mittelgroßer Fließgewässer

    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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