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Spacemaker launches Microclimate Analysis feature to combat urban heat islands

Product News
October 5, 2021

Oslo, 5 October 2021: Spacemaker, an Autodesk company, is today releasing microclimate analysis, the first easy-to-use visual tool that allows planning and design professionals to correctly evaluate the thermal comfort of outdoor spaces, detect problematic areas, and simulate optimal solutions to make high impact, low-cost changes at an early stage, before any major design decisions are locked in. This new feature forms part of Spacemaker’s real-time analyses with which users can test how their early-stage designs are impacted by environmental factors such as noise, daylight and wind.

Every year, the planet is getting hotter, Just this year, another heat wave swept across Europe, marking one of the hottest summers on record. Due to vast swathes of concrete and a lack of greenery, cities are particularly susceptible to urban heat islands (UHI), where temperature differences between urban and nearby rural areas are so significant that they severely impact how we move and live – London, for example, is up to 10°C warmer than surrounding areas. As we take major steps to mitigate this problem, architects, urban planners and real estate developers are under pressure to come up with sustainable, long-term solutions.

“Thermal comfort and the built environment are two sides of the same coin as the presence of wind and sun on a site is greatly impacted by fundamental decisions on building footprints and forms. Unfortunately, in most cases, thermal comfort is not considered until it’s too late, rendering crucial building blocks of a city’s overall sustainability strategy ineffective”, says Håvard Haukeland, co-founder of Spacemaker and Senior Director, Autodesk.

“Planning and design teams are then forced to address problematic large-scale issues with small-scale, yet high-cost renovations and improvements, that come with a serious risk of delays,” adds Håvard Haukeland.

European cities have not been built for the heat they are facing now and will continue facing in the future. As extreme weather conditions get worse – from heatwaves through to flash floods – cities will need to be designed and planned to withstand these effects. In northern Europe, homes have traditionally been focused on keeping heat in: little thought has been expended on how to keep it out.

“The microclimate analysis is a significant step in giving designers the right tools to make smarter, data-driven decisions from day one. This leads to solutions that mitigate the impact of climate change by ensuring optimal living conditions while increasing the resilience of cities,” concludes Håvard Haukeland.

How does it work?

While methods of calculating the urban heat island effect already exist, they’re often accessible only to expert users, take hours to run, or do not visualise the data. Spacemaker’s microclimate analysis is fast, intuitive and highly visual so that, for the first time, the entire site planning team can quickly see the impact of design decisions on thermal comfort and resolve any issues efficiently and effectively. Users can easily adjust the percentile to see how the site will handle extremes, e.g., on a particularly hot summer’s day, and view the results immediately on a Thermal Comfort map. Using the Comfort Frequency map, users can customise the relevant timeframe and the temperatures they consider to be comfortable. Within seconds, the resulting heat map shows the duration and time period of comfort and discomfort for outdoor spaces. As such, the microclimate analysis feature, along with Spacemaker’s other analyses, offers a new tool for designers to start making more outcome-based design decisions.

The Spacemaker team spent two years researching thermal stress and perceived temperature. The microclimate analysis adheres to the Universal Thermal Climate Index (UTCI) metric. For more information on UTCI we recommend this research paper [(PDF) An introduction to the Universal Thermal Climate Index (UTCI)], which details how UTCI’s approximations are created and calculated, and which was a key source of information for the analysis.

ENDS

Key messages:

  • Spacemaker has just launched the new feature microclimate analysis, which is now available in the platform.
  • The microclimate analysis is the first easy-to-use visual tool for thermal comfort studies, which in just seconds allows the entire site planning team to see the impact of their design decisions on thermal comfort in cities.  
  • The analysis will help mitigate the urban heat island effect, which many cities are facing, by facilitating data- and outcome-driven design of urban sites during early-stage planning.
  • By applying microclimate analysis right from the outset, problematic large-scale issues with respect to thermal comfort can be addressed early on, avoiding small-scale, high-waste and high-cost solutions later down the line.
  • Spacemaker’s microclimate analysis feature is the result of over two years of research by the product team and adheres to the UTCI metric.

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