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February 2020

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Aremi MacDonald

London adopted microclimate guidelines. Here’s why you should too.

They say to lead by example, and the City of London is proving to do just that – in wind microclimate studies that is.

In a pioneering attempt to improve safety and urban planning, London published not its first, but second edition of wind microclimate guidelines last summer- requiring in-depth wind analysis be an integral part of new development proposals in the city.  

Now surpassing its sixth month in action, London is one of the first major cities to be an early adapter of standardised wind analysis for new developments. Analysing how building proposals interact with the existing microclimate has never been more vital as our urban skylines are constantly changing- getting denser and influencing our wind environment and pedestrian comfort at street-level.   

Not only is wind analysis required for the city’s large high-rises and skyscrapers, but London’s guidelines also encourage wind microclimate studies around buildings intended for pedestrian activities including transportation hubs, public use spaces, buildings in exposed areas such as near bodies of water or near tall buildings and in many other cases as well.  

london guideline

According to London’s guidelines, a wind study is required to provide an analysis of pedestrian comfort levels.

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City Lawson criteria determine safety thresholds for different intended outdoor activities around the site.

 

Cityscapes are too often defined by prominent skyscrapers and large architectural landmarks. These huge and costly projects get all the glory and fame however, the reality is that the majority of a city’s buildings are quite ordinary in stature. It’s the everyday mid-rises that make up a lot of our urban densities and provide the most utility to the public.  

Rapid urbanisation coupled with increasing urban density are some of the biggest contributing factors to pedestrian comfort and wind safety. 

The Venturi Effect is a common example of how the shapes of our cities are redirecting and accelerating wind behaviour. Buildings act as a funnel, compressing the air within open spaces- causing high turbulence between buildings.  

So if you thought microclimate studies only apply to those big skyscrapers, think again.   

With stricter regulation on new proposals, it’s clear London is taking in these considerations, so for all you architects and urban planners out there, here’s why you should too: 

1. Sustainability & Inclusivity 

In 2015, the U.N. established 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) outlining its ambitions towards global partnership and the wellbeing of all countries by 2030. Number 11 aims towards “making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable,”(U.N. SDG’s, 2015).  

The quantification of the complex wind dynamics around buildings can answer questions concerning life quality, security as well as economic and social development of the surrounding area. Factors such as shape, size, orientation and vicinity of one building to another can alternate wind flow in a favourable or unfavourable manner for pedestrians. Increased wind speeds can create a dangerous environment for the elderly or infants, but reduced wind speed can also lead to the insufficient exchange of airflow.  

Designing with diverse demographics in mind is in line with the U.N.’s SDG’s and ensures the longevity of quality urban structures for generations to come.  

 

"Good wind microclimate conditions are necessary for creating outstanding public spaces in the City for all."

- City of London Microclimate Guidelines

 

2. Socioeconomic benefits  

Mixed-use developments are seen incorporated more and more in today’s modern designs. Spaces zoned for multi-purposes serve as a centralised “hub” for urban sprawl- from retail to working and residential spaces, dining and open public use. 

A new waterfront development in Toronto, Canada is currently in the planning stages. The proposal will bring a mix of commercial and housing establishments to the area and aims to create a pedestrian-friendly space designed for walking, among other unique attributes. New proposals for smart cities and mixed-use developments are becoming increasingly popular as designs of the sort appear all over the world.   

From a real estate perspective, the property value of mixed-use developments is dependent on socioeconomic considerations. For example, a restaurant with outdoor seating in a windy environment could deter passersby from dining at that establishment.  

What’s more? Take this real-life example from the Liljeholmen neighbourhood in Stockholm, Sweden. This southern district of the city is surrounded by large swaths of water, creating inherently windy conditions along its waterfront. Although waterfronts are prime real estate, people are less inclined to spend their time in environmentally harsh and windy conditions. Developers may also be reluctant to place parks or buildings in the area.  

 

3. A well-thought-out plan leads to a better design process from start to finish

Being an early adopter of microclimate guidelines gives your design a competitive advantage. While these guidelines are by no means a requirement (for now), more cities are becoming more microclimate-minded.   

Ingrid Cloud helps urban designers ensure pedestrian comfort and safety in their proposed design at an early stage, eliminating the risk of a costly redesign and expensive consultancy fees. The advantages of cloud-based computational power with scientifically validated simulation code recognised through academia is revolutionising wind analysis. This means that adopting microclimate wind studies using trusted CFD analysis can be incorporated into a designers existing workflow that much easier. Architects and engineers must consider wind to design better cities today and tomorrow.