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Mining Urban Heat measures wasted heat from passive (sun) and mechanical (infrastructure) sources, identifying excess urban heat for reuse



Urban environments generate vast amounts of process heat. Infrastructure and buildings could be designed to take advantage of process heat, but they are often not due to competing economic, bureaucratic and convenience concerns. Compared with rural environment, cities have an immense opportunity to capitalize on the connected-ness of resource use and reuse, such as energy, for driving urban processes and providing heat.This proposal will practice re-calibrating the demand of energy in urban environments with the supply of excess energy from passive and mechanical sources - it is about mining urban heat.

In many contemporary cities, the performance of the urban building stock with respect to energy has reached a critical state. A lot of urban growth took place in an era when energy was cheap and plentiful, creating a generation of buildings that fail to achieve even the most moderate contemporary energy consumption targets. We are increasingly challenged to plan our neighborhoods and design our structures in a way that is mindful of these resource constraints.

This proposal will design urban spaces with symbiotic relationships of thermal supply and demand. The first step in the proposal involves mapping available secondary heat from solar radiant sources, and building equipment and cooling systems, in cities.

The proposal then studies, through design, how zoning and building code regulation could be reinvented to create cities with net zero secondary heat production.

Is this proposal for a practice or a project?


What actions do you propose?

1. Collect data on building heat consumption from a range of private and public (municipal and federal) sources, LiDAR digital elevation points and weather data files. 

2. Study, through design, how zoning and building code regulation could be reinvented to create cities with net zero secondary heat production. Design ideas that will be explored include co-location of building uses based on complementary heating demand schedules, distribution networks for available low grade secondary heat and consideration of viable end uses for this low-grade heat, de-centralizing industries that regularly use large quantities of high grade heat to serve as neighborhood hearths of secondary heat production, and establishment of heat sinks by neighborhood in the form of open space.

Who will take these actions?

1. Municipal urban planners supported by academic research institutes, will work together to map heat supply and demand in cities, from passive and mechanical sources. 

2. Designers will work together to develop recommended zoning and building code changes that will take advantage of waste heat hot-spots in cities. 

Where will these actions be taken?

Any city with sufficient data availability 

In addition, specify the country or countries where these actions will be taken.

United States

Country 2


Country 3


Country 4

United Kingdom

Country 5



What impact will these actions have on greenhouse gas emissions and/or adapting to climate change?

What are other key benefits?


What are the proposal’s projected costs?


About the author(s)

Related Proposals


“Secondary Heat Study – London’s Zero Carbon Energy Resource.” Accessed March 13, 2015.

Brown, Hillary. Next Generation Infrastructure: Principals for Post-Industrial Public Works. Washington?: Covelo?: London: Island Press, 2014.

McDonough, William, Michael Braungart, and President Bill Clinton. The Upcycle: Beyond Sustainability--Designing for Abundance. 1st edition. New York: North Point Press, 2013.

Oleson, K. W., G. B. Bonan, J. Feddema, and T. Jackson. “An Examination of Urban Heat Island Characteristics in a Global Climate Model.” International Journal of Climatology 31, no. 12 (October 1, 2011): 1848–65. doi:10.1002/joc.2201.