Informed planning and accurate data are the basis for creating resilient cities that center around the well-being of people and the planet. Over a period of four years, RWDI consulted with the City of London to develop guidelines to better evaluate new building designs, and the impact they may have on their surroundings.
Published in 2019, the guidelines offer a consistent set of weather statistics, requiring any proposed building to be tested against the simulation of 36 wind directions, using both CFD and wind tunnel modelling. With more stringent comfort criteria and a review of wind effects on cyclists—a first in the UK—the guidelines also ensure a comprehensive understanding of wind microclimate around buildings before they are built.
As a bustling major city, with crowded, narrow streets and the continued demand for new high-rise office towers, the City of London is a prime example of a densely populated space seeking to accommodate competing interests from a variety of users. Each new building affects numerous neighbors, including historic buildings and shared outdoor spaces.
The lessons learned in London can be applied to any dense urban area facing similar pressures. And doing so has never been more important.
In a changed climate, city planners must fully understand how a new structure will respond to weather and how that building might impact its own microclimate. From altering wind patterns to reflecting or limiting sunlight, a building can affect its surroundings in many ways. But when armed with the right data from the beginning, these effects cannot just be mitigated, but also harnessed into sustainable, efficient opportunities for the area, its users, and the city as a whole.
By manipulating the microclimate through intelligent design, we can help reduce climate change contributors such as the heat island effect and the increased need for energy-intensive cooling. Understanding the orientation and interaction of new developments within our cities will allow us to find natural ways to ventilate, cool and heat a desired area. That could further reduce our reliance on carbon-producing mechanical intervention.
As cities evolve, so will the guidelines. The RWDI team will offer future updates to include additional environmental assessments. This data will enable designers to further modify their designs mitigating the effects of climate change, while promoting long-term resiliency and identifying opportunities for improved efficiencies along the way.
Having now been recognized by several city planning and architectural awards, the City of London guidelines offer a template for other cities to adopt, supporting urban planners to improve the health and well-being of their cities worldwide.
Read more from this series: Climate zones, wind-speed design and the future of the Arabian Peninsula