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Effect of urban design on microclimate and thermal comfort outdoors in warm-humid Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Journal article
Authors Moohammed Wasim Yahia
Erik Johansson
Sofia Thorsson
Fredrik Lindberg
Maria Isabel Rasmussen
Published in International journal of biometeorology
Volume 62
Issue 3
Pages 373–385
ISSN 0020-7128
Publication year 2018
Published at Department of Earth Sciences
Pages 373–385
Language en
Subject categories Meteorology and Atmospheric Sciences, Physical Geography


Due to the complexity of built environment, urban design patterns considerably affect the microclimate and outdoor thermal comfort in a given urban morphology. Variables such as building heights and orientations, spaces between buildings, plot coverage alter solar access, wind speed and direction at street level. To improve microclimate and comfort conditions urban design elements including vegetation and shading devices can be used. In warm-humid Dar es Salaam, the climate consideration in urban design has received little attention although the urban planning authorities try to develop the quality of planning and design. The main aim of this study is to investigate the relationship between urban design, urban microclimate, and outdoor comfort in four built-up areas with different morphologies including low-, medium-, and high-rise buildings. The study mainly concentrates on the warm season but a comparison with the thermal comfort conditions in the cool season is made for one of the areas. Air temperature, wind speed, mean radiant temperature (MRT), and the physiologically equivalent temperature (PET) are simulated using ENVI-met to highlight the strengths and weaknesses of the existing urban design. An analysis of the distribution of MRT in the areas showed that the area with low-rise buildings had the highest frequency of high MRTs and the lowest frequency of low MRTs. The study illustrates that areas with low-rise buildings lead to more stressful urban spaces than areas with high-rise buildings. It is also shown that the use of dense trees helps to enhance the thermal comfort conditions, i.e., reduce heat stress. However, vegetation might negatively affect the wind ventilation. Nevertheless, a sensitivity analysis shows that the provision of shade is a more efficient way to reduce PET than increases in wind speed, given the prevailing sun and wind conditions in Dar es Salaam. To mitigate heat stress in Dar es Salaam, a set of recommendations and guidelines on how to develop the existing situation from microclimate and thermal comfort perspectives is outlined. Such recommendations will help architects and urban designers to increase the quality of the outdoor environment and demonstrate the need to create better urban spaces in harmony with microclimate and thermal comfort.

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