The effects of urban morphology on enriching thermal experience : microclimates of courtyard spaces in Cambridge

Peng, Zhikai and Bardhan, Ronita and Steemers, Koen; (2022) The effects of urban morphology on enriching thermal experience : microclimates of courtyard spaces in Cambridge. In: Annual Conference Proceedings of the XXVIII International Seminar on Urban Form. University of Strathclyde Publishing, Glasgow, pp. 1522-1529. ISBN 9781914241161

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The microclimate shaped by urban form is one of the critical determinants for the success of public spaces. To date, hundreds of studies have revealed the potential of mitigating heat and cold stresses by spatial-enclosure strategies to reduce thermal discomfort. However, most of them have placed more emphasis on taming the thermal extremes, rather than on enriching the microclimatic context to benefit the thermal experience. A rich thermal context with varied, mild thermal stress would enhance psychological adaptation, affording flexibility and meeting different thermal preferences of sun, shade, wind and stillness. Therefore, we aim to investigate the morphological effects on these thermal qualities, and to compare not only the cooling performance of geometries but also the microclimatic diversity and hourly fluctuation in thermal stress. More than a hundred fully enclosed courtyards (n=107) were selected across 31 colleges and 10 teaching sites at the University of Cambridge. We have completed 20-hour microclimate simulations at 33 domains with boundary conditions near the summer solstice and the ENVI-met simulation results were fed back into the heatmap through Urbano, Dragonfly and Ladybug plugs-in in Grasshopper. We found much stronger morphological effects on the variations of sun and wind than on air temperature and humidity. The inferential statistical analysis has also shown that the compacity of building shades and the vegetation configurations play crucial roles in taming thermal extremes and enriching the urban thermal contexts at the human scale.

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