Studio 4215 examines how to adapt the city’s fabric for pedestrian comfort, while learning from the old and the new Dubai.
As the world turned to Dubai for the World Expo 2020, it becomes important to highlight the lessons the city has to offer for developments in extreme hot climates. Several characteristics of Dubai make it an ideal case study, like the contrast between different parts of the city in terms of urban density and building heights. The extreme weather contrasts between day and night in outdoor public spaces underline the importance of passive design measures such as shading, landscape and water features in providing outdoor thermal comfort.
Another major factor for choosing Dubai was that the city provides the opportunity to understand the significant change in conditions one could experience even within short walking distances. The study analyses therefore the current conditions and proposes a set of passive design interventions to improve the environmental performance of outdoor open spaces.
The first part of the study compares and investigates the differences between the urban fabric of what could be considered as old and new Dubai. The differences in looseness or tightness of the urban fabric, the ability of the buildings to protect or shade each other and the public spaces in between. As in the new parts of Dubai iconic buildings are built, the old part of Dubai, Deira, once the commercial centre of the city, continues to function with an equally high footfall. The research investigates therefore the differences in the built density and its impact on the pedestrian comfort conditions.
By applying different passive design and cooling strategies, the outdoor thermal comfort can be significantly improved for both the traditional and the modern parts of Dubai.
The analysis of the conditions found for the old and the new parts of the city showed that neither of them is well-performing in terms of daytime outdoor comfort, but both urban fabric scenarios offer a range of possibilities to develop successful and comfortable open spaces for an extreme and hot climate like Dubai. Through the model simulation with ENVI-met, local improvements of up to 25 °C in perceived temperature could be forecasted which could easily trigger behavioural changes and encourage people to walk and use outdoor spaces.
The dense urban fabric in the traditional quarter of Deira showed significant improvements in thermal comfort and responded well to the applied passive and low energy design strategies. Heat stress could be lowered from “Extreme” to “Moderate” due to a dense urban fabric and its ability to “contain” the effect of the applied strategies.
The area next to the Burj, representing the modern Dubai, due to its shear scale, showed moderate improvements to the applied strategies but nonetheless offers a continuous scope for improvement in pedestrian comfort.
Comparison and quantification through ENVI-met software show a significant reduction in heat stress levels in both scenarios and further highlight the huge potential that Dubai has in both creating and setting an example of great outdoor spaces.