Currently Reading

I’ll meet you right outside: Microclimates and community

I’ll meet you right outside: Microclimates and community


By Stephen Lacker | Sasaki | April 12, 2021

We shape buildings using iterative computer modeling to create comfortable microclimates that in turn support campus communities. Creating meaningful places that contribute to a network of campus open spaces is a primary objective when we design projects for higher education. At the core of this design challenge is the fundamental relationship between a building and its immediate site.

There are many aspects to this relationship: scale, materials, campus context, and open space systems — however the very local micro-climate has an oversized impact on user comfort in a specific place. These high quality exterior gathering places are increasingly important in supporting community — at all times of the year — while engaging in appropriate social distancing as a response to COVID 19.

Sasaki’s interdisciplinary architecture and landscape architecture teams have been able to understand, engage with and influence future building micro-climates by collaborating with Klimaat on climate modeling and design analysis. Two successful examples with differing climate requirements are Saint Edward’s University Saint Andre Residence Hall in Austin Texas and the University of Rhode Island Brookside Apartments in North Kingston, Rhode Island.

 

Saint Edward’s University Saint Andre Residence Hall — Austin, TX

student walking down path towards overhang and courtyardSaint Edward’s University Saint Andre Apartments.

 

 

exterior view, glass facade to the right, courtyard and tree to the left

 

Community spaces at the ground floor are adjacent to wind sculpting portals creating active, comfortable four season indoor / outdoor connections.

At Saint Edward’s the primary climate challenge was to create a place providing relief from the intense Austin, Texas heat. Initial climate analysis highlighted the benefit of providing shade and breezes to both lower the perception of day-time temperature and to utilize the wide daily temperature swing to refresh spaces heated during the day with cool evening air. With the guidance of Klimaat we designed a courtyard building with many ground level portals channeling winds into the central open space. These portals, through climate modeling, were sized and shaped to create spaces that were comfortable for a range of activities from passive newspaper reading with full shade and gentle breezes to music performance with stronger directed wind. Additionally building massing was varied to generate winds that tumble into and refresh the courtyard. Public spaces within the building are organized around exterior portals that provide shaded open space which support activities that are in alignment with interior programming.

 

view from street through portal into courtyard

 

Portals were sized and located to support campus pedestrian connections, student life program spaces and a sense of identity and community for the residents.

 

Wind modeling during schematic design.

 

University of Rhode Island Brookside Apartments — South Kingston, RI

At the University of Rhode Island the climate challenge was to create places that were protected from the bitter northern winter winds and to extended outdoor comfort in both the fall and spring shoulder seasons when along with the winter months, students spend the majority of time on campus. Again with the guidance of Klimaat we designed two offset housing slabs creating two courtyards; a northern courtyard capturing the afternoon sun and a southern courtyard capturing the morning sun.

 

University of Rhode Island Brookside Apartments.

 

 

The building massing shelters the east facing courtyard from northern winds. The courtyard is warmed by the morning sun. Movable tables and chairs allow students to gather and enjoy the adjacent café.

Each courtyard benefits from modifications at the ground level of the building that were informed by climate modeling. A one story connector between the slabs provides a wind shadow for the southern courtyard while the northern courtyard is protected by an offset block of 2 story housing, a strategically placed site wall and wind diffusing trees. Additionally detailed wind modeling during design development informed the final configuration and sizes of canopies to ensure that entries were also protected from strong northern winter winds.

 

Wind modeling during design development.

 

The west facing courtyard is sheltered from the northern winds by the two story housing unit, site walls, and plant material. It warmed by the afternoon sun providing a complementary space to the east facing courtyard
 

 

Although the climate conditions between Saint Edward’s and URI vary dramatically, micro-climate modeling and analysis informed conceptual massing, design development, dimensional resolution and most importantly improved user comfort to both campus communities.

More from Author

Sasaki | Aug 6, 2021

Microclimates and community

The very local micro-climate has an oversized impact on user comfort in a specific place.

Sasaki | Feb 16, 2021

A humanistic approach to data and design in the COVID era

As the COVID crisis continues to disrupt higher education, Sasaki is working with our campus clients on space planning initiatives that harness data to uncover solutions to complex challenges never before faced by college and university leaders.

Sasaki | Jul 28, 2020

Post-pandemic workplace design will not be the same for all

Regardless of whether it takes 3 or 18 months to fully return to work, it is clear the long march toward re-emergence from this global pandemic will likely be more of a gradual re-opening than a simultaneous return to life as we knew it.

Sasaki | May 31, 2018

Denver's airport city

Cultivation of airport cities is an emerging development strategy shaped by urban planners, civic leaders, airport executives, and academics.

Sasaki | Feb 12, 2018

Stormwater as an asset on urban campuses

While there is no single silver bullet to reverse the effects of climate change, designers can help to plan ahead for handling more water in our cities by working with private and public land-holders who promote more sustainable design and development.

Sasaki | May 26, 2017

Innovations in addressing homelessness

Parks departments and designers find new approaches to ameliorate homelessness.

Sasaki | Apr 3, 2017

Capturing the waterfront draw

People seem to experience a gravitation toward the water’s edge acutely and we traverse concrete and asphalt just to gaze out over an open expanse or to dip our toes in the blue stuff.

Sasaki | Dec 14, 2016

The future of libraries

The arrival of programs that support student and faculty success such as math emporiums, writing centers, academic enrichment programs, and excellence-in-teaching centers within the library, heralds the emergence of the third generation of academic library design.

Sasaki | Dec 9, 2016

Between floods: Resiliency and urban regeneration

It’s useful for planning for the “worst-case scenario”, but it is important to remember that major floods can happen at any time.

Sasaki | Jul 1, 2016

Sasaki library survey gauges librarian happiness

Libraries are changing from dull book boxes into vibrant hubs for academic institutions. Sasaki surveyed more than 400 librarians to learn how library staffs interact with and respond to their workspaces.


Magazine Subscription
Subscribe

Get our Newsletters

Each day, our editors assemble the latest breaking industry news, hottest trends, and most relevant research, delivered to your inbox.

Subscribe

Follow BD+C: