Tree shade coverage optimization in an urban residential environment

Qunshan Zhao, Elizabeth A. Wentz, Alan T. Murray

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Shade provided by trees, shrubs and other vegetation serves as a natural umbrella to mitigate insolation absorbed by features of the urban environment, especially building structures. For a desert community, tree shade is a valuable asset, contributing to energy conservation efforts, improving home values, enabling cost savings, and promoting enhanced health and well-being. Therefore, maximizing tree shade coverage is an important component in creating an eco-friendly and sustainable urban environment. Strategic placement of trees enhances tree shade coverage of buildings. This paper details an optimization method to simultaneously maximize tree shade coverage on building facades and open structures and to minimize shade coverage on building rooftops in a 3-dimensional environment. This method integrates geographic information systems and spatial optimization approaches for placing trees that provide the greatest potential benefit to a building. A residential area in Tempe, Arizona is utilized to demonstrate the capabilities of the method. The optimization results show that two trees can provide up to 22.20 m2 shade coverage at 12:00 across a 54 m2 south-facing facade. This research offers a method to help homeowners, urban planners, and policy makers to quantitatively evaluate shade coverage from trees for building structures in a residential environment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)269-280
Number of pages12
JournalBuilding and Environment
StatePublished - Apr 1 2017


  • GIS
  • Location modeling
  • Solar insolation
  • Spatial optimization
  • Tree shade coverage

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Building and Construction


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