Towards Better Urban Spaces in Harmony with Microclimate: Urban design and planning regulations in hot dry Damascus, Syria
Abstract: Popular Abstract in English This study concerns the city of Damascus in the Syrian Arab Republic. Damascus is a city where the current urban form is characterized by wide streets and lack of shade as well as limited amount of green areas, which negatively affect the microclimate and thermal comfort. This study is mainly focused on residential streets and how the urban planning regulations affect the street spaces as well as the spaces between buildings. The shape of the street influences the outdoor thermal comfort which in turn affects people’s human health and well-being. In order to improve microclimate and increase the level of outdoor thermal comfort in future urban design in Damascus, it is important to develop the existing urban planning regulations according to the climatic requirements. This can be done by reducing the space between buildings, planning narrower streets, increase the maximum number of floors, and allowing projections of upper floors. Moreover, architectural design elements, which provide shade for pedestrians at street level such as balconies and arcades, could be more used. In existing urban areas in modern Damascus, outdoor thermal comfort could be improved by introducing vegetation and landscape elements in the urban design process. This study highlights the importance of a climate-conscious urban design and design flexibility. Using urban design elements such as vegetation and shading devices (vertical and horizontal) can improve the level of thermal comfort. However, these elements can worsen the situation during the winter since they block the solar radiation to reach the area. Thus, this study encourages the use of flexible urban design elements, which can be regulated in every season according to climatic needs. Elements such as removable shading devices, flexible light skin roofs with light materials over streets and pavements are examples of flexible urban design elements that can be used in urban design for the hot dry climate of Damascus. This research is an attempt to develop further understanding of the relationship between microclimate, thermal comfort, urban design and outdoor space users in the hot dry city of Damascus. This is done by studying the impact of urban regulations on microclimate in different urban design patterns. This study also aims to investigate the behaviour of different thermal comfort indices and defines the thermal comfort limits for Damascus in the summer and winter seasons. In addition, how to apply urban microclimate and thermal comfort in the urban design process is also a part of the aim. To investigate different urban design patterns based on urban planning regulations, a microclimate simulation study was performed. Based on the simulation results, the thermal comfort was analyzed. In addition, micrometeorological measurements and structured interviews with the people in streets – in six locations during the summer and winter – were conducted to assess the microclimate of the outdoor urban environment and to investigate how people perceive the thermal environment in Damascus. This study provides basic knowledge for architects, designers, and planners about the importance of microclimate and thermal comfort in urban design and planning. This study also provides useful insights in the field of microclimate and thermal comfort about how to mitigate the negative aspects of urban design on microclimate and comfort in hot dry climates. Based on such knowledge, better urban spaces can be created by taking microclimate and thermal comfort into account.
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