Energy saving potential of natural ventilation in China: The impact of ambient air pollution

Natural ventilation (NV) is a key sustainable solution for reducing the energy use in buildings, improving thermal comfort, and maintaining a healthy indoor environment. However, the energy savings and environmental benefits are affected greatly by ambient air pollution in China. Here we estimate the NV potential of all major Chinese cities based on weather, ambient air quality, building configuration, and newly constructed square footage of office buildings in the year of 2015. In general, little NV potential is observed in northern China during the winter and southern China during the summer. Kunming located in the Southwest China is the most weather-favorable city for natural ventilation, and reveals almost no loss due to air pollution. Building Energy Simulation (BES) is conducted to estimate the energy savings of natural ventilation in which ambient air pollution and total square footage at each city must be taken into account. Beijing, the capital city, displays limited per-square-meter saving potential due to the unfavorable weather and air quality for natural ventilation, but its largest total square footage of office buildings makes it become the city with the greatest energy saving opportunity in China. Our analysis shows that the aggregated energy savings potential of office buildings at 35 major Chinese cities is 112 GWh in 2015, even after allowing for a 43 GWh loss due to China’s serious air pollution issue especially in North China. 8–78% of the cooling energy consumption can be potentially reduced by natural ventilation depending on local weather and air quality. The findings here provide guidelines for improving current energy and environmental policies in China, and a direction for reforming building codes. Read more: Energy saving potential of natural ventilation in China: The impact of ambient air pollution