Cooler Cities: What Kinds of City?

Urban Form, Climate and Wellbeing
  • Chris Butters
Part of the Palgrave Series in Asia and Pacific Studies book series (PSAPS)


How can we ensure cooler cities, in hot developing countries in particular? Our focus has been on Asia, home to most of the fastest growing cities in the world, many of them in extremely demanding tropical climates. Cities have been formed in many ways through the course of history. Perhaps we need new city paradigms for the future; or can some tried and trusted solutions, given modern methods, perhaps provide the best answers? Do some conclusions emerge about what type of cities we should choose to build?

In former times, towns did develop on the basis of simple environmental factors, such as favourable climatic sites, natural resources and availability of water, in addition to factors such as defence and proximity to trade routes. But the basic physical, environmental parameters, such as location, terrain, climate, energy or water have been largely secondary considerations in the growth of our recent cities. Major city planning decisions in the real world are seldom made with environmental grounds as a high priority, but on a wealth of pragmatic considerations such as land availability, land prices, existing infrastructures and market interests, or on grounds related to national and regional policies, prestige and much else. However, we do see that environmental considerations are gaining in focus, as witnessed by the efforts of hot-climate cities to improve their microclimate—even to the extent of restricting development densities, that is to say the ‘bottom line’ of profit. One might see in this a shift back towards a more centrally planned approach to planning, which has been out of fashion in neo-liberal economies; but with the rationale now being partly environmental rather than economic or ideological. Nevertheless, we can approach the question of urban form from a principally environmental point of view. Seen in purely physical terms, what kinds of city can provide the coolest environments in hot climates? In this chapter we discuss some of the environmental arguments for and against different city paradigms.


  1. Baker, N., & Steemers, K. (2000). Energy and environment in architecture: A technical design guide. London: E&FN Spon.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Barter, P. A. (2000). Transport dilemmas in dense urban areas: Examples from Eastern Asia. In M. Jenks & R. Burgess (Eds.), Compact cities, sustainable urban form for developing countries. London/New York: Spon Press.Google Scholar
  3. Blenghini, G. (2009). Life cycle of buildings, demolition and recycling potential: A case study in Turin, Italy. Building and Environment, 44, 319–330.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Burgess, R. (2000). The compact city debate: A global perspective. In M. Jenks & R. Burgess (Eds.), Compact cities, sustainable urban form for developing countries. London/New York: Spon Press.Google Scholar
  5. Butters, C., & Thomas, T. H. (2017). Comparing the carbon impact of buildings to that of nfrastructures, ELITH online publication W07. Available at Warwick University, UK.
  6. Butters, C. et al., (Eds.). (2010). Signals: Local action – Success stories in sustainability. Stiftelsen Idebanken (The Ideas Bank Foundation), Oslo. See also
  7. Cheshmehzangi, A., & Butters, C. (2015). Refining the complex urban: The study of urban residential typologies for reduced future energy and climate impacts. In: Proceedings of 8th conference of the international forum on urbanism, Incheon, South Korea.Google Scholar
  8. Demographia. (2016). World Urban Areas. 12th Annual Edition April 2016.
  9. Disch, R. (2017). Rolf Disch architects. Plusenergiehaus—das Wohnmodul., (pdf and other articles, in German, see also Accessed 02 June 2017.
  10. Ebenezer, H. (1902). Garden cities of tomorrow. London: S. Sonnenschein.Google Scholar
  11. Ibn-Mohammed, T., Greenough, R., Taylor, S., Ozawa-Meida, L., & Acquaye, A. (2013). Operational vs. embodied emissions in buildings – A review of current trends. Energy and Buildings, 66, 232–245.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Jabareen, Y. R. (2006). Sustainable urban forms, their typologies, models, and concepts. Journal of Planning Education and Research, 26, 38–52. Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning; MIT, USA.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Jianlei, N. (2004). Some significant environmental issues in high-rise residential building design in urban areas. Energy and Buildings, 36, 1259–1263.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Liddell, H. (2013). Ecominimalism: The antidote to eco-bling (2nd ed.). London: RIBA Publishing.Google Scholar
  15. LSE Cities/EIFER. (2014). Cities and energy. Urban morphology and heat energy demand. Final report, London.Google Scholar
  16. Nielsen, G., et al. (2007). Miljobyen Freiburg. Oslo: Transportokonomisk Institut.Google Scholar
  17. O’Toole, R. (1996). The vanishing automobile and other urban myths. Different Drummer, The Thoreau Institute, USA.Google Scholar
  18. Sakka, A., Santamouris, M., Livada, I., Nicol, F., & Wilson, M. (2012). On the thermal performance of low income housing during heat waves. Energy and Buildings, 49, 69–77.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Sartori, I., & Hestnes, A. G. (2007). Energy use in the life cycle of conventional and low energy buildings: A review article. Energy and Buildings, 39(3), 249–257.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Steemers, K. (2003). Energy and the city: Density, buildings and transport. Energy and Buildings, 35(1), 3–14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Thomas, T. H., & Butters, C. (2017). (forthcoming) Equity and thermal public health in tropical cities. Journal of Municipal Engineering UK.Google Scholar
  22. Wallhagen, W., Glaumann, M., & Malmqvist, T. (2011). Basic building life cycle calculations to decrease contribution to climate change – Case study on an office building in Sweden. Building and Environment, 46, 1863–1871.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Yang, J. (2010). Does energy follow urban form? An examination of neighborhoods and transport energy use in Jinan, China. Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA: MIT.Google Scholar
  24. Yu, C., Chen, Y., & Nyuk Hien, W. (2006). Thermal benefits of city parks. Energy and Buildings, 38, 105–120.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Zhang, X., & Wang, F. (2015). Life-cycle assessment and control measures for carbon emissions of typical buildings in China. Building and Environment, 86, 89–97.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Chris Butters
    • 1
  1. 1.University of WarwickCoventryUK

Personalised recommendations