Urban Microclimate Simulations : Helsinki
In the heart of urban development lies the challenge of creating comfortable, livable spaces that not only foster social cohesion and promote a healthy lifestyle but also support the thriving of small businesses. Our recent project delved into the intricacies of urban microclimates, explicitly focusing on the urban heat island phenomenon—where city centres experience significantly higher temperatures than their rural surroundings, a common occurrence in metropolises like Tokyo, New York City, and Paris.
Our journey began with the simulation of urban microclimates to understand the impact of extreme heat events and urban heat islands on neighbourhoods. The simulations were meticulously designed to provide scientific data for a 3D urban environment, which served multiple purposes:
The simulations were instrumental in recommending heat-resilient urban design strategies. These included strategically placing blue-green infrastructure, increasing the albedo of building exteriors and designing urban morphology to enhance natural ventilation—all aimed at improving outdoor comfort levels.
Our project showcased the potential of Helsinki’s OpenData in simulating urban microclimates. We utilised a wealth of data, from 3D building models to urban tree databases, to create a detailed simulation environment. This approach not only supported Helsinki’s Digital Twin initiative but also provided actionable data on urban microclimate variables.
A comprehensive collection of data underpinned the simulation:
Our tool of choice was SOLENE-microclimate, a cutting-edge suite developed by CRENAU, which allowed us to simulate the microclimate’s components—air temperature, solar exposure, and wind speed—over our 3D model.
1. Thermal Radiative Initialization: This sets the stage for the simulation by initialising the urban microclimate variables.2. Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) Coupling: Here, the simulation came to life, integrating conductive, convective, and radiative energy flows.3. Universal Thermal Climate Index (UTCI) Calculation: The final stage involved calculating the felt temperatures, providing a human-centric measure of thermal comfort.
Based on our simulations, we recommend the following for urban areas:
Through this project, we have demonstrated that with the correct data and tools, urban microclimate simulations can be a cornerstone in designing cities that are not only resilient to heat but also promote a higher quality of urban life.
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