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February 2020

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Aremi MacDonald

Real-world cases bringing wind microclimate mindfulness to the forefront of urban design

Cities all over the world are becoming more and more mindful of how much urban design impacts life qualityConsidering OR not considering the microclimate can make or break a new building proposal, create unsafe wind conditions at street-level and impact property value.  

1. Ottawa says no to a high-rise that ignored good practices for wind microclimate

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A 17-storey-high hotel proposal was rejected last month in the city of Ottawa, Canada. Why? Urban planners advised the city’s council planning committee to reject the developmenet, outlining concerns for pedestrians and residents in the surrounding ByWard Market neighbourhood. Because of the current design specifications, planners believe the building would create adverse wind conditions and air flow problems, among other issues which would all have a direct impact on the quality of life for residents and pedestrians in the area. It’s unusual for proposals to be rejected so late in the game because by the time they reach the city, most designs have been reviewed and verified by architects, developers and planning staff. Would early-stage wind analysis have saved this proposal from the chopping block?

2. When in Manchester, appreciate the microclimate!

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A few years ago the City of Manchester published its Residential Quality Guidance which provides direction and clear standards for creating sustainable and inclusive neighbourhoods in the city. The City of Manchester recommends wind analysis for buildings taller than their immediate surroundings to ensure pedestrian comfort and safety of the area. Although these recommendations aren’t as detailed as London's microclimate guidelines, it’s a step in the right direction and certainly indicative that wind is an important consideration for any design in any city.

3. Designed to generate cooling breezes during Singapore’s hot summer

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The Interlace in Singapore is an exemplary design that proves it's one with nature. Its stacked arrangement allows for winds to blow through the building and throughout the courtyards- traveling over the pools and artificial lakes in its path, cooling the surrounding microclimate as well (which is especially favourable during Singapore’s hot summers). Among other sustainable features, this urban escape is microclimate-minded in more ways than one.

The acceleration of wind between the blocks, often an unwanted side effect of architecture like this, is beneficial. With its shadows, water features and cooling breezes, the architecture turns the Singapore weather, which can be unbearable, into a better version of itself. 

- The Architectural Review, 2015

4. In London, insufficient attention to wind impact gives sufficient reasons to say no

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This £1 billion proposal has sparked quite the controversy and has been widely criticised by experts- even by its own planning inspector. Westferry Printwork’s development was initially rejected by city council and was heavily opposed by a neighbouring municipality’s council, as well as the Greater London Authority (GLA). Planning inspector David Prentis published a lengthy report outlining concerns over the new design and heavily advised London’s housing secretary to reject the plan. The reason for all the buzz? The development “would ‘be harmful to the recreational use of Millwall Outer Dock for sailing’, due to its effect on the microclimate and wind turbulence”, Prentis states. As part of the proposal’s ongoing criticism, the GLA added that the design fails at “making good places for people to live in,” and also noted:

Insufficient attention has been paid to any factor other than seeking to maximise the amount of market housing in the scheme.

The point? Wind analysis helps streamline the design process while reaping the socioeconomic benefits. It could save your proposal from being scrapped, prevent unsafe wind conditions for pedestrians and bicyclists, eliminate costly retrofits and redesigns- the list goes on and on. Considering the urban microclimate is crucial to creating a sustainable and inclusive city. CFD simulations for wind microclimate studies are a part of that solution, providing an automated and scientifically validated method for design optimisation, with huge cost-saving benefits and faster time to market.

View our wind applications to see how data-driven design can help optimise your next urban project: https://www.ingridcloud.com/wind-simulations/