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Designing better outdoor public spaces with Spacemaker

Product News
November 3, 2021

There’s a great quote from the renowned Danish architect and urban designer Jan Gehl who said that “A good city is like a good party — people stay longer than really necessary because they are enjoying themselves.” What’s essential for hosting a good party is, of course, an awesome location. Or in the case of the city, great public spaces that celebrate public life. Where people of all ages and from all walks of life can meet, connect, play, hang out, stroll around or just simply watch other people. In cities we all have our favourite parks, squares, courtyards, playgrounds, gardens, terraces and, increasingly, rooftops. Here it’s very much about inviting people to linger and creating the conditions that allow them to do so comfortably.

Herald Square, New York. Image courtesy of Gehl.

High quality outdoor areas can often be a defining factor of a design concept, especially with high density, mixed-use urban developments that require lively, shared outdoor public spaces. But just like bad weather can ruin a party, this is the case for public space too  where unpleasant conditions such as wind, noise, and too much or too little sun make it no fun for people to spend time outdoors. So it’s crucial for us architects to be able to identify these problematic areas and get it right at the earliest stage of designing so we can create the safe, comfortable and appealing public spaces for people that we intended.


Calculating the amount and quality of the usable outdoor area is not an easy task. In some countries where outdoor area is regulated, e.g. the amount, quality and even surfaces, providing these calculations and documentation is already necessary at the early phase to gauge a project’s feasibility. Environmental analyses are often not accessible at this initial stage due to time- and cost-efficiency; area calculations are complex and tedious as they need to be done manually. This is where Spacemaker’s Outdoor area analysis comes in to help us design better outdoor areas in a fraction of the time. Whereas traditional calculations are time consuming, Spacemaker can complete these in a matter of seconds, meaning you’ll be spending less time on monitoring compliance and have more time to focus on design.

Our analysis calculates the amount of usable outdoor area for both ground floor and rooftops, taking into consideration targets as a percentage of residential GIA, noise conditions, sun conditions and terrain steepness. In Norway it also includes the spaciousness norm, the minimum distance between buildings relative to their height. The analysis can also be used to earmark potential areas for permeable green space on street level and for green roofs. What’s more, in Explore, Spacemaker’s generative design tool, the amount of outdoor area can also be included in the height optimisations using Height Studies to ensure that all generated proposals comply with the percentage of outdoor area that’s required (excluding sun and noise conditions).


Using the outdoor area analysis in combination with a Wind analysis and Microclimate analysis, we can identify urban heat islands and make sure that the outdoor spaces are comfortable for people to enjoy all year round. The data not only provides us with deeper insights to make more confident decisions but shows our clients and stakeholders the evidence to support our ideas. Once you have the insights, you can evaluate and make the changes to improve the situation straight away in your massing model, and keep testing, analyzing and iterating until you’ve reached an optimal outcome with your outdoor areas. Do visit our Help center to read all the technical information about the Outdoor area analysis.

Sunlit outdoor area

In Spacemaker, everything we do is designed to help our users design with better outcomes in mind. So when it comes to designing better outdoor areas in our cities, the goal to throw a good party sounds like an excellent idea! Because who doesn’t love a good party?

To experience Spacemaker’s Outdoor area analysis or any of our easy-to-use environmental analyses on your own sites, sign up
here for a free trial.

Main image: Brighton New Road, courtesy of Gehl.



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