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Micro-climate and urban design

How does urban design influence the micro-climate of a place? In this article, Dr David Chapman discusses research on this matter.
Aerial view over block and street patterns in Barcelona

The urban design of a place should be adapted to the micro-climate. Important aspects include:

  • The location of the town.

  • The height of buildings.

  • The space between buildings.

  • Orientation of streets.

  • Street widths.

  • Green spaces.

  • Design of buildings.

Hot and dry regions

In hot and dry regions, the heat is high during summer. Sunlight has a high glare. The sunlight can be both direct and reflected. Therefore, it is important to provide shade. Sidewalks, playgrounds, and open spaces should be shaded. For instance, surrounding buildings, trees, or canopies can provide shade.

Ventilation through the winds can be achieved by the orientation and width of streets. This can be beneficial during summer. If the regions have cold winters, it might be problematic. If the winters are cold, there is cold winds in the winter season.

Hot and humid regions

In hot and dry regions, it is also important to provide shade. Designing the streets and open spaces to get ventilation through the wind is a way to manage the heat. In these regions, there are risk of tropical storms and floods. Disposal of rainwater is therefore an important issue in urban design. There is also need for providing rain protection in public spaces.

Cold regions

In cold regions, allowing solar access is important. Buildings and streets should be designed taking this into account.

Public places should have protection from snow and winds. Examples of this is colonnades, covered arcades and galleries.

Snow must be managed in the wintertime. Plans for facilitate the snow is therefore needed. Public places should be designed to enable this.


Givoni, Baruch (1998). Climate considerations in building and urban design. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold

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