Spatial characterisation of wind impacts in an urban environment

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leicester
Department Name: Geography


RELEVANCE AND SCIENTIFIC VALUEUnderstanding what and where the climate risks are is essential when planning for resilient urban environments. Several studies have quantified and/or produced spatial maps of temperature- or precipitation-related current and future risks. These offer a valuable decision-support tool for policymakers and other stakeholders. However, given the range and diversity of climate impacts it is necessary to provide decision-making stakeholders with as complete information as possible in order to avoid mal-adaptation. In Greater Manchester wind damage is second only to flooding in terms of the quantity and severity of extreme weather events, which have negatively impacted on the local infrastructure and/or population. Therefore, the addition of a comprehensive risk assessment of wind impacts to the growing body of knowledge on temperature and precipitation patterns will provide a more holistic account of climate impacts, and highlight urban areas or specific buildings which are at particular risk, and ought to be a high priority when planning for sustainable and comfortable future urban environments. Patterns of air flow in an urban environment are complex and it is therefore difficult to provide information at a useful spatial scale. However, with the advent of detailed digital elevation data for urban areas it becomes possible to characterise the three dimensional geometry, which is an important factor in describing exposure to wind. The three dimensional geometry can be linked to existing land use and surface cover categorisations, and experimental work using the city as a laboratory can be used to relate the local characteristics to urban flow patterns. The outputs from this work will provide a valuable means of verifying and extending existing urban classification schemes by establishing algorithms which can be used for rapid spatial characterisation of flow patterns. The algorithms will be transferable to other UK and European cities and will be scalable (sub-kilometre to city-scale), subject to the resolution of input data.PROJECT AIMThe aim of this project is to develop a better understanding of airflow patterns within an urban environment, using the case study area of Greater Manchester. The study will use information about land use, surface cover and 3-dimensional geometry, together with measured data to assess the risk to the local population and infrastructure of wind impacts. The outputs will be provided across spatial scales, taking into account the wider city region and also more localised flow patterns. The findings will be presented with respect to the implications for air quality, thermal discomfort and structural damage.

Planned Impact

BENEFICIARIES The project outputs will have immediate relevance at the local scale, for the population, infrastructure owners and governing bodies of Greater Manchester. Stakeholders with an interest in making infrastructure, the built environment and transport systems resilient to environmental change will benefit from the research findings, which will add to the growing body of knowledge on climate change impacts within the Greater Manchester region. For example, 6 of the 10 local authorities in Greater Manchester have signed up to National Indicator 188: Adapting to Climate Change, which is part of the new performance assessment regime for local authorities. The aim of NI188 is to strengthen the integration of planning and preparedness for climate risk and opportunities within local authority planning and decision making. A requirement of this indicator is that a local climate impacts profiling exercise is carried out, with wind being an important component of this. Consequently, the 6 committed local authorities (Wigan, Bury, Bolton, Oldham, Rochdale and Salford) would benefit from an understanding of the local wind impacts, whilst the remaining authorities are also required to demonstrate action and resilience to climate change via the overarching Association of Greater Manchester Authorities' (AGMA) Climate Change Executive, the North West Climate Change Action Plan and the recently endorsed Manchester's Climate Change Action Plan. Consideration of wind by policy makers is also necessary to achieve the goal of creating a safe, sustainable and economically robust environment. Storm damage to manmade structures and trees can have severe economic implications, in addition to the immeasurable cost of lost lives. A number of other key service providers also require knowledge of local wind patterns and the potential implications of a changing climate, such as the Environment Agency, United Utilities, North West Development Agency and the Greater Manchester Public Transport Executive. Within the commercial private sector a number of companies have expressed a keen interest for more detailed data about wind during stakeholder meetings associated with other research projects. These include Bruntwood, AECOM and Broadway Malyan, who are all involved with the design, engineering or maintenance of buildings. Their interest lies in examining opportunities for siting urban wind turbines and providing natural ventilation for buildings. They also need to assess the risks associated with structural damage and a potentially uncomfortable internal environment. In the external environment, ventilation in street canyons is an important factor in reducing exposure to air pollutants and high temperatures. Therefore, if planners recognise the impact of local geometry and surface cover of ventilation patterns and integrate this knowledge in practice, the wider public could potentially benefit from a safer, healthier, more sustainable environment. The project results have national and international relevance, as the novel methods used and the algorithms developed could be applied to other UK and European Cities to emphasise climate risks and opportunities. Understanding how wind impacts on urban environments presently and how these impacts may change in the future is potentially extremely valuable for planning policy, and would align with the much greater amount of research on temperature. DISSEMINATION & KNOWLEDGE TRANSFER The PI has established links with many of the key stakeholders having worked with them on other projects and this should assist with the dissemination process. A project website will be set up and this will be advertised through existing channels which have access to existing networks of high profile stakeholders, such as the CIBSE North West meetings and the EcoCities e-newsletter. A stakeholder dissemination seminar has also been costed into the proposal and is scheduled for the end of the project.


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Description How wind patterns vary on a city-scale. In particular, how land use and building geometry can influence 3-dimensional airflow
Exploitation Route The outputs from the project can be used to identify buildings at risk of storm damage and to assess how ventilation of warm air/air pollutants may be feasible at the city-scale.
Sectors Construction,Environment

Description Membership to Manchester a Certain Future Network
Geographic Reach Local/Municipal/Regional 
Policy Influence Type Membership of a guideline committee
Impact The Manchester a Certain Future Network is responsible for refreshing the climate change strategy and producing the action plan for 2016-20. Stakeholders from across the city will be invited to set out what they want a low carbon, climate adapted Manchester to look like in 2050.
Description NERC Green Infrastructure Innovation
Amount £97,000 (GBP)
Funding ID NE/N017374/1 
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2016 
End 12/2017
Title Urban mesoscale wind network 
Description sub-hourly 3-d wind data for anemometer network 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2014 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact data now been used in air quality model -