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Assessing annual thermal comfort extent in central courtyards: Baghdad as a case study

Omar Al-Hafith (School of Architecture Design and the Built Environment, College of Art, Architecture Design and Humanities, Nottingham Trent University–City Campus, Nottingham, UK)
Satish BK (Welsh School of Architecture, Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK)
Pieter de Wilde (Department of Architecture, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, UK)

Smart and Sustainable Built Environment

ISSN: 2046-6099

Article publication date: 21 April 2022

Issue publication date: 10 April 2023




Traditional central courtyards have been advocated for being thermally efficient for hot-climate regions. However, exploring previous literature shows that it is not clear to what extent courtyards are truly thermally comfortable. This study determines the level of thermal comfort in residential courtyards in hot-climate regions, taking Baghdad as a case study.


This study develops a novel Courtyard Thermal Usability Index (CTUI) to quantify the ability of courtyards to provide thermal comfort to occupants. CTUI is the fraction of useable thermally comfortable hours in courtyards of the total occupation hours during a specific period. To operationalise CTUI, the research employs the Envi-met 4.2 simulation tool to determine the annual thermal conditions of 360 courtyards. An adaptive thermal comfort model developed by Al-Hafith in 2020 for Iraq is used to judge simulated thermal conditions and determine CTUI.


CTUI enables determining the level of thermal comfort courtyards offer to occupants by showing the ratio of the thermally comfortable period versus the occupation period. Results show that, in Iraq, annually, courtyards offer up to 38% comfortable hours out of the total potential occupation hours. The rest of the time the courtyard will not be comfortable, mostly due to overheating. When designing courtyards, the most effective geometric property impacting courtyards' thermal conditions is width/height. The most important microclimatic factor impacting occupants' thermal sensation is mean radiant temperature (MRT). This study can be used to inform designing thermally efficient courtyards for hot-climate regions.


This study presents the first assessment of the thermal efficiency of courtyards in hot-climate regions depending on an assessment of their ability to provide thermal comfort to occupants. The study presents a novel index that can be used to quantify the ability of courtyards to provide a thermally comfortable environment to occupants.



This work was conducted as a part of a PhD study at the University of Plymouth. The study was supported by the HCED in Iraq under grant D120 1858.

Declaration of interests: The authors declare that they have no known competing financial interests or personal relationships that could have appeared to influence the work reported in this paper.


Al-Hafith, O., BK, S. and de Wilde, P. (2023), "Assessing annual thermal comfort extent in central courtyards: Baghdad as a case study", Smart and Sustainable Built Environment, Vol. 12 No. 3, pp. 660-681.



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