The award for the best paper at the 15th PLEA Conference on Environmentally Friendly Cities was given to:

Street canyon geometry and microclimate:
Designing for urban comfort under arid conditions


The Center for Desert Architecture and Urban Planning
J. Blaustein Institute for Desert Research ~ Ben-Gurion University of the Negev
Sede-Boqer Campus 84990 Israel


While urban design guidelines have been developed for responding to climate in various regions, these recommendations are often based more on intuition or sporadic observation than on an integrated microclimatic analysis of thermal comfort conditions. Quantitative studies on desert environments are especially lacking, since most arid regions remain sparsely populated. In the present study, empirical data taken from extensive full-scale measurements in a number of low-rise urban street canyons in the arid Negev region of Israel are integrated with a simple numerical model representing the overall thermal energy exchange between a pedestrian and the street canyon environment. The integrated thermal index produced allows a comprehensive means for comparing geometric alternatives and generating guidelines which can aid in the design of urban spaces under climatically similar conditions. Analysis of overall energy balance suggests that in summer, overheating within the canyon is sensed primarily as a nocturnal phenomenon, and that during hours of substantial heat stress in a desert climate, compact urban spaces do in fact constitute potential "cool islands," mainly due to internal shading. In winter, a compact geometry was found to provide relatively warm conditions during most hours, with the key factor being protection from chilling by strong winds.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS - The author wishes to acknowledge the invaluable contribution made to this paper by Dr. Pedro Berliner of the Blaustein Institute for Desert Research. Thanks also to Prof. Arieh Bitan of Tel-Aviv University and Prof. Yehuda Gradus of Ben-Gurion University for their support of the original research, and to members of the Center for Desert Architecture and Urban Planning for their assistance throughout.


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