Edge Debate 86: Urban Form, Density & Microclimate – 13th November 2018

Tuesday, November 13th, 2018 | Debates


How must planning & design change?

September 2018 the refereed journal Building Research and Information (BRI) published a Special Issue, Urban Form, Density and Microclimate, guest edited by Rohinton Emmanuel and Koen Steemers. https://www.tandfonline.com/toc/rbri20/46/8. This Edge event used the BRI Special Issue as the basis for an in-depth examination of the relationship between urban built form and the microclimates of our streets and cities. It is part of an ongoing series of events and activities that investigate the challenges of increasing urban density on the wider built environment.

Compact urban form is often argued for as a more sustainable approach, but this raises significant questions about the impacts and adverse consequences on local microclimates and what this means for energy demand, thermal comfort, air quality and health:

  • What are the trade-offs between high density, compact cities and the energy intensity of buildings?
  • What are the implications for the practice of climate-sensitive urban design to create urban thermal comfort and air quality
  • What further planning guidance and regulation are needed?

Emerging research is currently revealing interactions and interdependencies between urban form and building design. Building geometries and height, together with street layout and vegetation, all impinge on shading and ventilation and lead to microclimate consequences.

The debate examined some of the interdependent outcomes /consequences that arise from modern demands on built form (e.g. increased density, higher floor area ratios and other economic drivers). How should local government, planners and professionals respond when modifying the existing urban fabric? For example:

  • For built environment professionals - what can be done to better understand the consequences of built form on its surroundings?
  • For planners - should neighbourhood-scale assessment of climate be part of the decision process? If so, what are appropriate metrics and principles to account for the impacts of built form?
  • For government - what protection can be provided to improve air quality and the health impacts of streets and neighbourhoods?


Richard Lorch, Editor of Building Research & Information


Professor Flora Samuel, University of Reading


Professor Rohinton Emmanuel, Glasgow Caledonian University

Professor Michael Hebbert, UCL

Professor Sue Grimmond, University of Reading

Professor Phil Steadman, UCL


Julia Thrift, TCPA

Euan Mills, Future Cities Catapult


Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU), London Campus, Room 1.2, 40 - 48 Fashion Street, Spitalfields, London E1 6PX


Tuesday 13 November 2018, Debate 5.30 (for 6.00) – 8.15 pm


Invitation flyer Edge Debate 86: Urban Form - Invitation

Presentation 1: Richard Lorch

Presentation 2: Rohinton Emmanuel

Presentation 3: Michael Hebbert

Presentation 4: Sue Grimmond

Presentation 5: Philip Steadman

Presentation 6: Julia Thrift

Edge Debate 86 Urban Form: Debate notes




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