City Temperatures and City Economics, a Hidden Relationship Between Sun and Wind and Profits

Urban design undoubtedly influences the urban economy.

A simple thing like designing an area to make it more walkable can boost local business profits.

This can also increase real estate value, create more and better jobs and generate stronger local economies.

Street temperatures also determine their walkability. With climate change bringing longer and more frequent heatwaves, street temperatures will become even higher than at present. This will reduce walkability and, in turn, local business profitability.

Walkability impacts local businesses

The evidence shows businesses do better with foot traffic than car-based mobility. For example, closing New York’s Times Square to cars increased business revenue by 71% during an eight-month pilot project in 2009.

The following example helps explain why foot traffic benefits local business. In car-based cities, a take-away coffee on the way to work may involve a series of decisions:

  1. driving the car to a certain cafe
  2. finding car parking
  3. leaving and closing the car
  4. joining a queue to buy a coffee
  5. getting back in the car
  6. proceeding on the journey to work.

In contrast, when walking down the street we may not even have considered having a coffee, but we can smell it. So:

  1. we walk into the cafe
  2. join the queue to buy a coffee
  3. carry on walking to work.

The process is shorter, more spontaneous and part of a daily journey. Impulse buys as a result of exposure to stimuli have surprisingly big economic consequences, particularly for the retail industry.

What is microclimate?

Microclimate refers to the atmospheric conditions in an area. These can vary not only from the surrounding region but also within the area itself. Both the natural and built environments influence these differences. A well-known example of such differences is in Sydney’s western suburbs, which are much hotter in summer than the eastern suburbs, which benefit from being close to the sea and cooling breezes. But can an unpleasant microclimate suppress impulse buys? To a certain extent, yes. The frequency of impulse buys, and ultimately the overall success of most businesses in tropical cities, may be connected to the local microclimate. For instance, the orientation of streets in relation to sun and breeze exposure can influence the microclimate. This can then determine if people stay and have a second coffee or extra ice cream after lunch, or if they avoid streets because they are too exposed and hot. Australian cities, however, are too often overzoned and planned in a sprawling pattern. By compromising walkability this represses spontaneous purchases. CBDs are also too frequently oversized with unshaded wide streets. In hot climates this makes the journey on foot unpleasant and poses health risks to young children, senior citizens and people with health conditions. This article was originally published by The Conversation. Click here to continue reading entire article.

UD2: Byron Bay Town Centre

The upcoming 2018 International Urban Design Conference will be held at the SMC Conference and Function Centre, Sydney, NSW next month over 12 – 13 November.

The conference will showcase innovations in projects and research embracing and creating transformational change in urban environments.

Joining us at the conference is Ms Jo Kelly, Director at People, Place and Partnership who will present on ‘UD2: Byron Bay Town Centre – How to Implement a Comprehensive Masterplan for an Iconic Town Centre Talking Strategy to Action’.


The Byron Bay Town Centre Masterplan is different. It is an integrated masterplan one that is based on the principles of comprehensive community engagement and a commitment to governance and implementation from the outset. This masterplan is not driven by the land developer’s opportunity sites, it is driven by a place focused assessment of future needs based around community catalyst sites.

Creating a masterplan for the iconic NSW tourist destination, Byron Bay which is visited annually by more than 1.4 million domestic and international tourists and is home to more than 30% of the Shire’s residents, approximately 8,500 people was always going to be a challenge. This masterplan was created around an ambitious commitment to work hand in hand with the community, to understand their aspirations for the future and create a framework that allowed for actions to be implemented incrementally.

Essential to the approach has been the understanding that town centres are constantly evolving and that masterplan strategies should show a commitment to establishing holistic, yet incremental responses to people’s needs.

This masterplan is created based on a 6-point vitality assessment that has community, implementation and governance at its core that takes a closer look at the Public domain, Access, Movement and Transportation,
Built Form and Aesthetics, Economic Development, Culture and Environmental Sustainability.

People, Place and Partnership worked alongside the lead designers McGregor Coxall to create a place making approach that allowed for community ownership, activation and community leadership to drive the masterplan delivery.

This presentation will share with you these insights on how to take the plan from idea to implementation from one of Australia’s most iconic destinations and follows the journey from the 2014 start, to what has been implemented as 2018 concludes.


Current Position – Director People Place and Partnership Pty Ltd Qualifications & Affiliations – Bachelor of Urban Planning (Hons), University of New England Expertise Areas • Strategic Planning • Place Planning • Masterplans • Place Making, Place Activation • Stakeholder communications and engagement • Community, stakeholder and technical facilitation Jo is a Director of People, Place and Partnership who has had an extensive and broad career in urban planning, master planning, large infrastructure projects and community development. For the last 20 years Jo has spent working on large scale masterplans to assist transition cities and key communities in renewal programs.

Jo has varied experience and has developed highly refined skills in facilitation, strategic thinking, project management and delivery. She is intent on looking for innovative solutions to problems and believes in delivering outputs and outcomes that are of an extremely high quality. With her diverse background in local and state government, private sector both in Australia and within Europe she brings a comprehensive insight to best practice and innovation in the tools and techniques applied in projects. Jo is an industry leader in engagement, strategic communications, governance and implementation frameworks.

She has developed strategic engagement and communication solutions efficiently and effectively that ensure successful delivery of high profile and at times contentious projects. Jo has been instrumental in the award-winning master planning projects for Parramatta City Centre, Bryon Bay Town Centre, Springwood Town Centre where she has worked alongside McGregor Coxall.

For more information on the 2018 International Urban Design Conference and to secure your spot visit the conference website at


UD1: The Happy City – Designing for Happiness

The upcoming 2018 International Urban Design Conference will be held at the SMC Conference and Function Centre, Sydney, NSW next month over 12 – 13 November.

The conference will showcase innovations in projects and research embracing and creating transformational change in urban environments.

Joining us at the conference is Miss Sofie Pringle, Urban Designer & PhD Researcher with Peddle Thorp & Qut who will present on ‘UD1: The Happy City – Designing for Happiness’.


Urbanisation and densification are some of the greatest challenges for humanity this century. Delivering density well is critical. There is opportunity within these contexts to revolutionise the way we plan and design our cities, and citizen happiness is key to this. In the highly dense and compact context, we look to develop best practice urban design standards and policy that advocates for better design quality, liveability, sustainability and community resilience. However, there is one crucial ingredient missing – designing for happiness.

Pilot research developed through QUT has explored urban design elements that people associate with their happiness. Qualitative and quantitative methods were used in the research project to identify features of urban environments around the world that people associated with happiness. These findings were tested through the pilot study conducted in Brisbane, which validated phase 1. Overall it found that there are linkages between particular urban design characteristics and the happiness of people in the urban environment. Some of which include colour, texture, materiality, water and other physical features within an urban context.

This pilot research highlights that design can enhance the happiness of users. Future urban and city design could be informed by ‘urban happiness’ principles that guide the creation of the happy city; one that is liveable and meets the needs of social sustainability.

We know that urban quality has been recognised as attracting great economic investment opportunity for cities. But has Australia considered the attractiveness of a happy city? In the age of globalisation, cities need to compete on difference and specialisation, designing for happiness could be this point of difference. The research contributes to improving urban design and guiding the design process to create happier, healthier places for people within cities. Density can be done well, if happiness is part of the equation.


Sofie Pringle is a designer at Peddle Thorp Architects and a PhD candidate undertaking research in urban happiness at Queensland University of Technology. Her research focuses on the relationships between density, happiness and urban design. Sofie has published research in the area of “urban happiness” which explores user happiness in urban settings, user perceptions, urban design (built and natural) characteristics that have an impact on user happiness.

From a design background, Sofie has a range of experience in master planning, residential, retail, mixed use and education projects at various scales of density. Sofie has the ability to extract, interpret and synthesize the client brief into a well-developed design that reflects end user needs for a long-term solution. She has a passion for creating environments that increase user happiness and improve quality of life, with long term strategies for growth.

For more information on the 2018 International Urban Design Conference and to secure your spot visit the conference website at

A City for People: Liveable, Connected and Vibrant

This article was kindly contributed by Dr Michael Cohen, Director of City People, who will be speaking at the 2018 International Urban Design Conference, held from 12-13 November at SMC Conference and Function Centre, Sydney. 

Place Consultancy City People, recently brought together a powerful team of collaborators to tackle a Gehl “City For People” report:  architects, artists, urban geographers, historians – even the local funeral director.

Turning cities and towns upside down

I still vividly remember the first time I went to a festival in the streets when I was growing up. It was a delicious, topsy-turvy world: neighbours had brought their lounge room furniture onto the footpaths, weird and wonderful artists took over the roads and friends and strangers danced and laughed in each other’s company. That experience really hit home and I decided my life’s pursuit would be to turn the public places of cities and towns upside down with art.

Later, I literally took my art to the street and for about twelve years toured the world.  I performed a solo physical comedy show in streets, town squares, pedestrian malls and parks of towns and cities, big and small.  Often I was invited to perform by arts festivals but I would also often arrive ‘cold’ in a town and seek out places to perform where members of the passing crowd became my customers.  (Incidentally, street performers understand many of the variables of public domain urban design intimately – that is the subject of another blog someday!).

What drove me then still inspires me:  I am interested in how the quality of people’s lives in our shared public places can be changed for the better.  For me, this is most interesting when arts and cultural projects become tools for positively affecting people’s association with places that they live and visit.  It’s now been many years since I performed on the street but creating cultural life in public spaces has always been my trade:  both with festivals and performance, and also with public art and temporary urban interventions.

The Rocks Village BIzarre : photo courtesy Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority

In Australia, many of our public places are going through systemic change.  And some of this work is directly the result of Gehl team members who have done extensive work with various local government authorities.  Sydney, the city in which I live, is currently undergoing a massive transformation of its civic heart with its core arterial roadway now being opened up to pedestrians, and its congested city centre to be unknotted with a major public square.  Similarly Melbourne’s city centre has been through a huge change for the better.  It is now a peopled city whose public places now thrive and prosper – and it’s a far cry from the sparse, narrow footpaths where I tried unsuccessfully to ply my trade in the early 1990s.   So our two major cities in Australia – that house almost half of the country’s population – have had some major liveability boosts with the help of Gehl.

Gehl concept design for Sydney’s George St

The urban innovation accelerator

So it was really exciting for me recently to have the opportunity to work with the city of Wollongong and have a hand in progressing some of the recommended changes that have come about from a City for People report that Gehl developed during 2014-16.  The report assembled hard baseline data on pedestrian behaviour in Wollongong and it set some aspirational goals for how to make the city more liveable, connected and vibrant – with some short and mid-term goals for how to get there.

One of the pitfalls I’ve noticed working with local and state government authorities is that sometimes the impetus for change in our cities stalls before implementation can ever begin.  Whether it’s due to the intricacies of public-private partnerships, the capacity of internal staff or the political whim of the day, often big picture visions can rest on the shelf until they are well out of date.  However, employees of the City of Wollongong have taken an active hand in keeping the vision and intent outlined in their City for People report alive.

City People designed an Urban Innovation Accelerator for Wollongong that used the Gehl City for People report as its mandate to create citywide activation projects.  I brought together a core team of participants to work with me for twelve days:  artists, community activists, designers, urban geographers, a composer – even a funeral director.  Our mission was to devise temporary city activation projects that would bring the vision of the City for People report to life.  We used this laboratory environment to grow ideas for Wollongong that spoke to the place:  its physical character, its communities and its histories and social memories.

Urban Innovation Accelerator concept paste-up by artist Paul Gazzola & designer Ian Tran

A series of provocateurs were invited in: the city’s planners, historians, safety officers, academics and innovation workers all created a hothouse of ideas.  The core team then worked with the opportunities that Wollongong’s cityscape presented:  the bells that are still missing from the local church, the city’s disenfranchised skateboarders, the billboard marooned high on the city skyline – these elements became the creative palette for our collaborators.  They generated a series of terrific activation concepts for Wollongong’s public places that are a real fit with the place.

I can’t spill the beans on the terrific project ideas that emerged but you can get a sneak peak at the Wollongong Urban Innovation Accelerator in this short video clip. We were able to dive deeply into the aspirations of ‘vibrant and connected’ and ask for whom are we improving the city and why?  Who are the people who are not coming into Wollongong?  How can we spend money wisely so that these communities feel at home in our civic heart?  There is a whole range of short and mid-term projects that are meaningfully connected to that city.

The City of Wollongong is now deciding which of the projects it will implement but the benefits are clear.  We have a city that has seized the intent of its City for People report produced with Gehl and it’s not waiting for all the big-ticket items and planning developments to land.  It’s ready to improve the quality of its public life – and it’s happy to turn a few things upside down in order to keep that vision alive.


PKI: Living infrastructure: Transforming an ugly duckling

The 2018 International Urban Design Conference will be held at the SMC Conference and Function Centre, Sydney, NSW over 12 – 13 November.

The conference will showcase innovations in projects and research embracing and creating transformational change in urban environments.

Joining us at the conference is Mr Jock Gammon, Managing Director at Junglefy who will present on ‘PKI: Living infrastructure: Transforming an ugly duckling’.


The Manly Vale commuter car park is the world’s first “breathing” car park integrating 9,000 plants into its façade to provide living design, functionality and cleaner air. Located on Sydney’s northern beaches B-Line bus route, this car park is covered with Breathing Wall modules which have been scientifically proven to reduce air pollutants including particulate matter, C02 and volatile organic compounds.

The project is the first in the world to use rotating Breathing Wall panels that have been designed to rotate 180 degrees to allow safe access for plant maintenance. The rotating panels eliminate the need for scaffolding or ropes access and extend the application of plant walls to areas previously thought to have been too difficult to install living infrastructure.

With nearly 90% of Australia’s population located in our cities and unprecedented urban development, our trees and green space have become the trade off to our changing needs. Urban planners are tasked with the challenge of designing our cities to expand up and out whilst retaining green space and natural ecosystems. Living infrastructure provides the opportunity to include vast amounts of plants into cities in a very small imprint. Plants and green space have been shown to improve liveability, the economy, resilience and the environment.

The private sector and government have recognised the importance of plants and are leading the way with industry transformation. The Manly Vale car park was undertaken by the NSW government arising out of demand for quick and efficient transport between the city and Sydney’s northern beaches. The project will be subject to ongoing testing by UTS to prove the efficacy of the Breathing Wall in an outdoor environment and is likely to be the first of many projects to use this technology as a solution to improving health, wellbeing, noise and aesthetic.


Trained as a horticulturist with studies in Environmental Science, Jock loves plants and understands their power at making cites more liveable. As Junglefy’s Managing Director, he works with clients to ensure that living infrastructure projects can be realised in a cost effective and low risk manner. Being a natural innovator, Jock developed the award-winning ‘Breathing Wall’, an active green wall system, scientifically proven to accelerate the removal of air pollutants, volatile organic compounds and particulate matter. Jock continues to challenge the status quo, through investing in research and the science behind the Breathing Wall and other new technologies.

For more information on the 2018 International Urban Design Conference visit the conference website at