Strategy 11: Design with Sun, Wind, and Light
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Cities are mosaics of microclimates locally modified by the site topography and by the form of the urban fabric. Microclimates exist throughout the city and, through design, there is an enormous potential for creating sunnier, warmer spaces in winter, and cooler, shaded ones in summer. The use of temperature differences between ground and air is also a potential source of low CO2 cooling and heating.
The design of the urban fabric can make the outdoor climate more intense and uncomfortable or more moderate and comfortable. The effect of city design on microclimate can make air quality worse and buildings more expensive to operate—or it can help clean the air and help buildings to be more energy efficient. Urban development replaces vegetation with asphalt and buildings. Cool, transpiring green surfaces are replaced with heat-absorbing dark surfaces, such as dark roofs and heat-storing massive surfaces, such as concrete. Taller buildings in the inner city block the wind, create more friction for the wind, and reduce the ability of other buildings to lose heat to the night sky. This causes the urban heat island effect in which central city temperatures are significantly hotter than the surrounding countryside. High summer temperatures increase energy costs and health risks.
Considering topography, landscape, street pattern and design, building volumes, shapes and orientation, and choice of materials can help to avoid heat islands, change locally summer peak temperatures, and reduce the energy load of buildings while improving external thermal comfort. Urban design can significantly reduce the energy consumption of buildings through shading, natural cooling, wind movement, and passive solar gains, while helping to create a comfortable public space. The combined effects of solar radiation, convection, thermal capacity, albedo (degree of reflection of light by an object) and wind can cause differences in microclimates up to 15 °C in different parts of a city (English Partnerships et al. 2007).
 Using appropriate building forms can make passive ventilation of buildings an option and avoid mechanical air conditioning.
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Strategy 12: Design with Resilience and Evoultion
Design for resilience
Resilience is the ability of a system to bounce or spring back into shape, position, etc. after being pressed or stretched. The opposite of resilience is brittleness or rigidity. Resilience in systems arises from a rich structure of many feedback loops that can work in different ways to restore the system even after a large perturbation. A single balancing loop brings a system back to its desired state. Resilience is provided by several such loops, operating through different mechanisms, at different time scales, and with redundancy – one kicking in if another one fails.
Cities can be seen as hot spots of vulnerability, especially where a large part of the population lives in poverty. Low-income and vulnerable urban dwellers, such as women, children, the elderly, migrants and people with disabilities, are particularly at risk and are also more susceptible to shocks. However, urban areas present also opportunities to improve resilience: high population density means that local governments can provide critical infrastructure, such as water and energy supply, at a lower per capita cost than in rural areas.
Lever 2.3: Low Carbon Mobility
Challenges and Opportunities
Transport systems form the lifeline of economic and social development of cities – they enable economic, social and cultural exchange and connect urban centers to the bioregion and the rest of the country. As fast-growing cities face a massive influx of people into urban centers, the mobility of people and goods has become one of the most pressing concerns of city leaders and policy makers. The situation is already untenable in many cities, with local air pollution reaching dangerous levels for human health and traffic congestion costing as much as 8 percent of cities’ total GDP in some urban centers (Centre for Economics and Business Research 2014). The increases in global vehicle ownership and overall distances people travel fuel the demand for oil which, according to Asian Development Bank (2008) estimates, will be three times more in 2030 than it was in 2007.
Transportation produces about 23 percent of global CO2 emissions from fuel combustion (IEA 2017 c). More alarmingly, the transport sector is the fastest growing consumer of fossil fuels and the fastest growing source of CO2 emissions. With rapid urbanization in developing countries, energy consumption and CO2 emissions from urban transport are increasing rapidly. Emissions increased by 2.5 percent per year between 2010 and 2015 (IEA 2017c). This calls for shifting towards sustainable transport solutions: systems that are low-carbon, emphasize quality of life and yet foster economic growth. New analysis suggests that the world’s 724 largest cities could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 1.5 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) annually by 2030, primarily through transformative change in transport systems (The Global Commission on the Economy and Climate 2014).
 GHGs from transport come from fuel used during motorized journeys. Increasing the level of economic activity in a city generally results in an increase in the total number of trips. These trips are distributed over the range of available modes (called modal split), depending on the competitiveness of the alternatives for a given trip maker. Each motorized trip emits GHG emissions and the quantity of emissions depends largely on the amount and intensity of GHGs of the fuel used. Finally, driver behavior affects fuel consumption as after certain threshold speeds, fuel consumption increases considerably.
Proposed developments should strengthen local communities. Places must be stimulating for people, and buildings and open spaces must be comfortable and safe. This requires an appreciation of the dynamics of the local community, including: local views and initiatives; local history and custom; the views of stakeholders (such as developers, landowners, utilities); organizational or institutional arrangements; the policy context. The community holds the knowledge of how an existing area works, its needs and possibilities. Collaborative planning and design processes and a common understanding of issues ensure attention to local concerns and reduce the possible antagonism of local communities to change. Local communities can also play a role in project implementation and monitoring; future commitment can be ensured by early involvement in the design process. At an early stage, engaging the community should address a number of key questions. What are the perceived problems? What is the local image of the place? Can development complement this existing identity or does it need a “re-imaging”? What behavioral characteristics can be distinguished on the site and its surroundings? Where are the main routes, popular uses and activity centers? In order to answer these questions, it is essential to include local people in the design and development process. It is also useful to explore the local historical archives to understand how the place has evolved over time.
Engagement involves the people who live and work in the neighborhood, who understand it and who are committed to ensuring positive change. Involving the community can raise the profile of planning and help build consensus so that planning requests can be processed more easily. This can help integrate new and existing communities. Problems and opportunities can be identified and ways can be found to resolve potential conflicts. Engagement can reduce time lost in conflicts; and trade-offs can be negotiated between different interest groups to find mutually compatible solutions. When a community better understands the options that are realistically available, this can allow proposals to be tested and refined before adoption, resulting in the use of resources in a way that is in tune with what is needed and wanted. Making the most of the contribution of the local population, depends on providing the means for the community to become involved, being clear about the objectives of the engagement process, and ensuring that events are appropriate for the community scale and stage of development. If successful, the engagement process can improve design proposals, speed up the planning process, and help build a sense of ownership within the local community. Involving the local community and stakeholders in the development of a master plan can significantly improve the feasibility of the design. Identifying constraints and opportunities for the site at an early stage means that time will not be lost in unviable options. It also provides the community with a forum to explore their targets and understand what is needed to overcome potential barriers. This collaborative process can provide a set of ground rules and a vision for the site that all stakeholders can agree on. Developing this consensus from the beginning can improve project design and facilitate its passage to development.
The benefits of integrated spatial plans
Sustainable planning is at the convergence of multiple areas comprising spatial development and urban fabric design, connectivity through many scales, economic agglomeration and energy efficiency, resilience, social inclusiveness, and quality of life. It involves decisions on programming, land use, aesthetics, financial sustainability and profitability of the urban development. It has to reconcile conflicting demands on budget, program, site and timescale.
Design and sustainability aspects are often interrelated. For example, well-connected places with streets as places for people are more likely to be successful and thriving. Sustainable design requires an integrated approach to a wide range of factors, including resources, emissions, health, people, culture and housing, and how their relationships can shape urban form. It must be based on a thorough understanding of the relationships between the various components and functions of the built and natural environments, and, if possible, an ability to quantify these interconnections. Although this agenda may seem complex, collaborative work can provide solutions that work and quality places.
Download the full report below
- UNEP Events at the 10th World Urban Forum in Abu Dhabi4 February 2020 - 12:56
- Growing in Circles: climate-ready, resilient, resource-efficient, and equitable cities10 October 2019 - 09:39
- Jardim Helian – Creating a Sustainable Neighborhood in São Paulo5 February 2019 - 09:25
- Circular economy indicators: what do they measure?23 November 2018 - 09:39
- UN Environment Events at the World Urban Forum featuring GI-REC12 March 2018 - 14:23
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