Packed with concrete and a lack of greenery, cities can be far hotter than the rural areas around them. Retrofits to fix the problem can be expensive, but Spacemaker has a tool that could help developers avoid the problem in the future.
Part of the solution, according to the planning and design software provider, is to ensure developers, architects and urban planners can evaluate the thermal comfort of outdoor spaces early in the design stage.
Doing so means potentially avoiding high-cost retrofits in the future – especially as global temperatures continue to rise.
The company, which was acquired by Autodesk last year, has launched a new microclimate analysis tool to help design teams detect problematic areas and simulate the best possible designs for their sites.
Thermal comfort not considered ‘until it’s too late’
Håvard Haukeland, co-founder of Spacemaker, said: “Thermal comfort and the built environment are two sides of the same coin as the presence of wind and sun on a site is greatly impacted by fundamental decisions on building footprints and forms.
“Unfortunately, in most cases, thermal comfort is not considered until it’s too late, rendering crucial building blocks of a city’s overall sustainability strategy ineffective.”
Cities like London can be up to 10ºC warmer than surrounding areas, while UK homes in general have traditionally been designed to keep heat in. Across Europe, cities have not been built for the temperatures they will continue to face in the future.
Haukeland added: “Planning and design teams are then forced to address problematic large-scale issues with small-scale, yet high-cost renovations and improvements, that come with a serious risk of delays.”
How microclimate analysis works
Based on two years of research into thermal stress and perceived temperature, Spacemaker’s software visualises an entire site, allowing planning teams to see the impact of design decisions on thermal comfort quickly.
Users can adjust conditions to see how the site will handle a particularly hot summer’s day. Using the Comfort Frequency map, they can customise the relevant timeframe and the temperatures they consider to be comfortable. The resulting heat map shows the duration and time period of comfort and discomfort for outdoor spaces.
Haukeland said: “The microclimate analysis is a significant step in giving designers the right tools to make smarter, data-driven decisions from day one. This leads to solutions that mitigate the impact of climate change by ensuring optimal living conditions while increasing the resilience of cities.”