Neighborhood-scale sky view factor variations with building density and height: A simulation approach and case study of Boston

Sahar Mirzaee*, Onur Özgun, Matthias Ruth, K. C. Binita

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study establishes a relationship between sky view factors (SVF) and building densities and heights in a neighborhood. This research uses simulation to calculate average SVFs of hypothetical neighborhoods with different average height-density combinations, and uses the results to establish mathematical relationships that can be used in lieu of extensive field studies or generic assumptions. The advantage of this model over other methods lies within the fact that this model calculates the SVF for an urban area as opposed to a specific point. Although there are software applications that can calculate the average SVF of a selected area within an existing city, these applications require 3-dimensional shapefiles of the area, whereas the proposed method is free of such requirements and also can be used towards planning purposes for urban areas that do not exist. The method described herein is validated through direct measurement in a case study of Boston, Massachusetts, USA. Drawing on the concept of local climate zones, the estimates are compared with prior research and field measurements. Systematic analysis of impacts of urban morphology on the SVF can reveal how spatial distribution and height of buildings can modify the urban environment through attenuation of solar radiation and shading.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)95-108
Number of pages14
JournalUrban Climate
Early online date28 Aug 2018
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2018


  • Building density
  • Building height
  • Sky view factor
  • Urban geometry
  • Urban heat island

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