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UHI Mitigation through Visualizing, Quantifying, Mapping and Monitoring Urban Waste Heat from House to City: Education & Engagement



  • "...If you do not measure a phenomenon you cannot mitigate its effects..."

Over the last 30 years, the majority of Urban Heat Island (UHI) studies have taken place, on thermal images acquired from satellite platforms with a spatial resolution (i.e., the smallest discernible object) of 30-120m. However, with the advent of high-resolution airborne cameras like the new TABI-1800, spatial resolutions are increasing collected at 50cm – 1m for entire cities - as illustrated by the award winning HEAT project.

The objective of this document is to propose (yearly) night-time collections of high resolution (50cm – 1m) thermal infrared (TIR) imagery over the city of Cambridge MA, and to generate web enabled detailed city-wide thermal HEAT maps, HEAT Scores and HEAT Spots that visualize and quantify the waste heat escaping from individual homes, communities and the city. This will allow for a multi-scale analysis - allowing users to evaluate UHI’s at the scale of individual homes, businesses and communities to see where the energy is escaping, as well as UHI maps and metrics at the scale of communities, and the entire city.

Fig 1. MyHEAT (web-enabled) thermal maps at house, community and city scales.

This wasted energy will also be quantified, mapped and equated to the greenhouse gases and the money required to generate them, as well as their temperatures, and potential savings if specific actionable items are implemented to reduce them. Thus providing opportunities for local home owners and municipalities to direct their resources to reduce waste heat – which collectively can result in reducing the UHI at each level of interest.

  • This project has potential to provide employment opportunities through local 'Green' service solutions to reduce heat loss from individual homes and communities - though improved insulation, doors, windows etc.

NB: Important technologies have recently been implemented by MyHEAT to allow for comparisons of MyHEAT City TIR acquisitions over time [1-6].

Category of the action


Who will take these actions?

Through partnership with MyHEAT Inc and ITRES Research and in collaboration with the City of Cambridge – Dr Geoff Hay will coordinate data acquisition, processing, and value-added products to the City of Cambridge.


  • Thermal Infrared (TIR) imaging will be collected by ITRES Research – developers of the new TABI-1800 (Thermal Airborne Broadband Imager) the world leading airborne TIR sensor for urban sensing.
  • Rental of the data acquisition platform (aircraft) will be contracted out by ITRES to a local service provider – in the Cambridge/Boston area.
  • Thermal image processing and web-enablement will be provided by MyHEAT and upon permission with the City of Cambridge will be made freely available on the web – accessible by any HTML 5 device.
  • Additional value-added products (such as high-resolution full-city thermal mosaics) will be made available to the City of Cambridge over secure FTP.

MyHEAT is an emerging leader in urban waste heat imaging that builds on $970K of research funding and 6 years of leading-edge thermal imaging development - initiated by Dr Geoff Hay’s HEAT project at the University of Calgary, Calgary Alberta, Canada – recent recipients of the 2013 MIT Climate CoLab Grand Prize.

The MyHEAT platform provides web-enabled detailed city-wide thermal HEAT maps, HEAT Scores and Hot Spots that visualize and quantify the waste heat escaping from individual homes, communities and cities – which may then be linked with local service provider solutions and Green incentive programs e.g., weather stripping, new energy efficient doors, windows, upgraded furnaces, etc.

  • MyHEAT is currently in negotiations with several large N.American cities and Utility companies to implement custom MyHEAT City program for populations of over 1,000,000.

What are other key benefits?

MyHEAT (My - Heat Energy Assessment Technologies) is an award winning Freemium GeoWeb service designed to visualize the amount, location and cost of invisible waste heat leaving your home, communities and cities as easily as clicking on your house in Google Maps. 

MyHEAT Maps and Metrics

MyHEAT Service Capabilities:

  1. Defines multi-scale HEAT Maps at house, community and city scales;
  2. Defines Hot Spots (12 hottest locations on each roof - shown 3 at a time);
  3. Automatically links each home to Google Street View to confirm hotspot locations so owners can identify problem areas;
  4. Provides waste heat monitoring and GHG estimates (+ environmental/financial equivalents) for different fuel types; 
  5. Identifies the hottest houses in each community/city;
  6. Defines house, community and city HEAT Scores for inter/intra-city waste heat comparisons and competitions.
  7. Quantifies the amount of vegetation covering roof tops - for use to reduce tree damage from weather, fire, pests, etc.
  8. Maps Urban HEAT Islands and HEAT Sinks with TURN [2]

What are the proposal’s costs?

Proposal Cost to implement the initial MyHEAT Cambridge MA is approximately $141,000** (USD + Fed/Provincial taxes). Subsequent data acquisitions are subject to a reduced cost due to existing data infrastructure and experience.

  • With approximately 47,000 housing units in Cambridge, this represents a cost of approximately $3.00 per household.

Proposal Costs Include:

  • Thermal Infrared (TIR) data acquisition.
  •  Image processing and proprietary corrections to geospatial data.
  • The creation of a full-city geometrically corrected thermal infrared mosaic (for non-commercial municipal use only).
  • Lead City Sponsorship of MyHEAT Cambridge MA Website.
  • Web-enablement of the MyHEAT Cambridge MA platform - similar to the currently existing 37,914 homes in MyHEAT Calgary (NB: operational capabilities are currently enabled for cities with over 400K homes)
  • The first years maintenance for web services - included.
  • Subsequent years web services (i.e., site hosting) will be subject to a nominal fee of approximately $0.50 per household (volume discounts possible).
  • Additional functionality to the proposed site, or custom applications will be subject to (reasonable) negotiated pricing.

Additional Opportunities:

  • Project acquisition costs for Cambridge MA, may be reduced if combined with support from surrounding municipalities for larger area acquisitions  - e.g the Greater Boston Area.


  • This reduced proposal cost** allows MyHEAT commercial rights to solicit appropriate advertising and additional sponsorship opportunities of for the MyHEAT Cambridge website.
  • This project cost is subject to change and unforeseen circumstances (i.e., inclement weather, data acquisition - delivery-processing issues), and will be dependent upon timely access to updated city related support data (such as access to NIR imagery) that may not currently exist on open-data sites.

Time line

Upon acceptance of terms, this proposal can begin immediately:

Short Term: Thermal Infrared data will initially be acquired during the Fall and or Spring - under cool, dry low wind night-time conditions. Data acquisition, Image processing and web-enablement will be conducted within 90-120 days of project start (depending on municipality requirements and access to supporting data and financial support). 

Upon web activation, public and municipal users will immediately be able to begin evaluating waste heat loss from buildings and communities, allowing for more detailed planning strategies to be developed.

Medium Term: Opportunities to collect during both cool and hot seasons (within the same year) will allow for a comparison of Hot Spots with newly proposed Cool Spots - showing where air conditioned (AC) cool air is being wasted as it escapes from building envelops. Recent literature shows that AC cooling may contribute as much as 2 degrees Fahrenheit to the UHI. Consequently, delineation of residences with cooling and heating deficiencies can be referred to local service providers - whom will be advertising as part of a newly proposed Green Market Place that will be accessible from MyHEAT Cambridge MA and composed - where possible - of local service providers.

Long Term: Long-term monitoring will be based on meaningful short and medium term deliverables. It is anticipated that acquisitions will occur at least once every year, allowing for multi-temporal change comparison to show if waste heat, and mapped UHI temperatures have been reduced - as well as to validate related heat-loss work done by service providers. Monitored products are expected to result in 'Change, or Difference-Maps' visually showing temperature differences between structures, along with updated HEAT Metrics - including HEAT Scores and Hot Spots - at the house, community and city scales. HEAT Score histories may also be used by real estate agents to provide evidence of a homes energy efficiency.

Related proposals

  • Since April 2014, HEAT technology has been taken out of the university of Calgary and is actively being used by a new startup company - MyHEAT Inc.
  • This Proposal builds of technology that won the November 2013 Climate Colab Grand Prize:
  • In collaboration with the Cool Cash Program (CCP), HEAT Scores and Residential HEAT Maps could effectively follow (over time) how participating households reduce AC usage to provide targeted cooling and decrease waste heat production. HEAT Scores can also help CCP target individual households and communities within Cambridge that produce the most waste heat.
  • Collaboration with the Boston University ULTRA-EX science program may be initiated to obtain metrological data to support microclimate normalization of the proposed Cambridge TIR data, as well as support opportunities for larger area acquisitions (i.e., Boston) over long-time periods; thus reducing overall project costs, ensuring greater longevity, and linking with local climate/CO2 research.



Peer Reviewed Publications:

  1. Rahman, M. M., Hay, G. J., Couloigner, I., Hemachandaran, B., Bailin, J. 2014. An assessment of polynomial regression techniques for the relative radiometric normalization (RRN) of high resolution multi-temporal airborne thermal infrared (TIR) imagery. Remote Sensing Special Issue (ISSN 2072-4292): Recent Advances in Thermal Infrared Remote Sensing Remote Sens. 2014, 6(12), 11810-11828; doi:10.3390/rs61211810.
  2. Rahman, M. M., Hay, G. J, Couloigner, I., Hemachandaran, B. Transforming image-objects into multiscale fields: A GEOBIA Approach to Mitigate Urban Microclimatic Variability within H-Res Thermal Infrared Airborne Flight-Lines. Remote Sens. 2014, 6, 9435-9457 (
  3. Abdulkarim, B; Kamberov, R; Hay, G. J. 2014. "Supporting Urban Energy Efficiency with Volunteered Roof Information and the Google Maps API." Remote Sens. 6, no. 10: 9691-9711. (
  4. Rahman, M. M., Hay, G. J., Couloigner, I., Hemachandaran, B., Bailin, J. 2014. A comparison of four relative radiometric normalization (RRN) techniques for mosaicking H-res multi-temporal thermal infrared (TIR) flight-lines of a complex urban scene (PHOTO-D-14-00266). The ISPRS Journal of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing [Accepted with revisions on August 27, 2014].  pp. 41
  5. Rahman, M. M, G. J. Hay, I. Couloigner, B. Hemachandran, J. Bailin, Y. Zhang and A. Tam. 2013. Geographic Object-Based Mosaicing (OBM) of High-Resolution Thermal Airborne Imagery (TABI-1800) to Improve the Interpretation of Urban Image-Objects. IEEE Geoscience and Remote Sensing Letters. Vol 10, NO. 4, July. 918-922.
  6. Hay G.J., Kyle C., Hemachandran B., Chen G., Rahman* M.M., Fung T.S., Arvai J.L. 2011. "Geospatial Technologies to Improve Urban Energy Efficiency." Remote Sens. 3, no. 7: 1380-1405. (


MEDIA: All of these links are about the HEAT project

  1. TEDx Energy Talk (video - 14 mins): Whose home is wasting more Energy? Yours of your neighbors (37914 ways to find out) –  GJHay, University of Calgary, AB. (05.11.13)
  2. Calgary ShawTV (video - 3:40 mins): HEAT Hay – The driving force behind the HEAT program – Paul Helmer (02.25.14)
  3. Canadian Geographic (web/magazine/education): On the Map – Exploring Cartography: Hot Spots. Mapping Calgary’s wasted heat – and wasted dollars – Michela Rosano (Jan/ Feb 2014 issue) – story on line (1.10.14).
  4. Canadian Geographic (web): Heat map shows Calgary residents how to save energy – Michela Rosano (11.27.13)
  5. Green Building Advisor (web/magazine): Thermal Images Show Ceiling Heat Leaks – Scott Gibson (11. 22.13)
  6. Calgary Real Estate Board (web): Red and Blue and Green All Over – Cody Stuart (11.15.13)
  7. Global TV (CBC News - web, video): Cut your heating bills with new online tool – Tony Tighe (11.14.13)
  8. Alabama wise (web): HEAT Mapping Neighborhood Home Energy Waste with Aerial Thermal Imaging and GIS – (11.20.13)