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Bioclimatic urbanism

In this article, Dr David Chapman discusses the connection between urban form, climate, and individuals.
Lake in a park with buildings in the background
© Photo by David Chapman
All over the world, the form of the built environment plays a key role as an enabler or inhibitor of urban outdoor activities such as walking or biking. The public realm can make it more attractive for people to be mobile outdoors and to participate in public life, or it can put people off venturing outside.

A key urban design challenge in hot, cold and temperate climates is to create environments that encourage outdoor activity in all seasons. A closely related challenge is to understand how changes in weather due to climate change will influence people’s soft mobility choices.

Here it is important to understand how the relationship between urban form, weather, seasonal variations, and climate change influences human outdoor activity. A concern is that people spend a low percentage of their time being active and outdoors. For society, the problem is that this trend and the related low levels of physical activity are associated with a range of health issues.

To study this, researchers at Luleå University of Technology have looked at what attracts and hinders outdoor soft mobility and how this knowledge can underpin new considerations about urban design. Here soft mobility is defined as ‘non-motorised human movement’.

The goal of this work was to firstly understand how connectivity for soft mobility in the built environment is affected by the season, climate, and weather. Secondly, the goal was to identify new ways of thinking about how the urban form can be conceived and designed to increase outdoor activity.

The conclusion was the concept of ‘Bioclimatic urbanism’. Here, human movement and activity is seen as an outcome of the individual, the urban form and the climate.

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Placemaking and Public Space Design: Unlocking Place Potential

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