Urban Environments

 Kennedy square in Essen, Germany

 Ever growing Cities

“Four out of five European citizens live in urban areas, and their quality of life is directly influenced by the state of the urban environment.” 


on Thematic Strategy on the Urban Environment
SEC(2006) 16

Urban environment could generally be defined as the result from interaction between physical and climatologic conditions in a dense developed and inhabited area. Typical aspects for urban environments are for example transportation, waste management, heat production, air quality and noise, density, pedestrian traffic and wind comfort. Especially with respect to the latter aspects one could say that the physical making of the built-in environment influences or even determines the local micro-climate.

The open space between buildings serves many purposes relating indirectly or directly to that what generally can be understood as “urban life”. Our research focuses on two main aspects. One is the investigation of the effect of urban microclimate, function, form and aesthetics on human perception of urban life quality with the aim to formulate general rules for an ideal city shape. Secondly, we look on building shapes and the application of innovative facade design (e.g. green walls or vegetated structures) and the influence on daylight, building energy requirements, structural loading and microclimate. 

 Elements of Urban Environment

Focus Aspects

  • How does the shape of a city affect the energy consumption of buildings due to daylight reduction, ventilation, heating and cooling?

  • Optimisation of city geometry with respect to local climate and building energy consumption.

  • Development of Universal Evaluation Scales (UES) to combine results from different approaches and techniques presently used for the assessment of various aspects in urban life quality.

  • Field measurements and observations to substantiate a multi-aspect assessment of urban life quality.

Research Content

Our work takes its starting point in the geometry of the city expressed by the building design and the urban space between the buildings. Evolved over time as a result of function, architectural realization and pure necessity (i.e. geographically, topographically, politically and strategically) the urban geometry represents most directly the structure of a city. Furthermore, the geometry of a city has large influence on the urban climate. In particular the local wind conditions are determined by the shape of buildings and spaces. But also other aspects such as direct and indirect daylight, noise reflection and damping depend heavily on buildings geometry, surface materials and design. In extension to this air quality and temperature are influenced by the motion of air through urban areas and are hence a function of city geometry as well.

The above aspects have always been main criteria in the creation of urban spaces. Consequently, good urban space or city life quality is a result from natural evolution of city development over centuries. Part of our research is to learn and understand the principles of good urban space and to identify the measurable parameters constituting quality.  Furthermore, these parameters shall be formalized and integrated in simulation techniques allowing accurate reflection of existing cases and ultimately prediction of future developments. This research line will be paralleled with the development of criteria allowing translating the simulation results to an expression of quality. The assessment of urban space quality will then provide guidance for planning and designing of the ideal city in large and in small scale.