In the next decades (urban) designers and planners will face major challenges concerning urban climate and energy supply. There will be an increase in urban heat caused by human activities and the demand for energy will be ever growing. Climate-responsive planning and design can have beneficial effects on the urban climate by contributing to a reduction of urban heat and helping to reduce the energy demand of buildings and public space. In order to achieve these beneficial effects, an understanding of the characteristics in urban (micro)climates, their thermodynamic system and potentials to generate renewable energy is crucial.
Currently urban planners and designers are not able to comprehend the urban environment in terms of energy flows. They tend to value urban environments as fixed three-dimensional objects and do not consider the manifold dynamic flows present in this environment. The goal of this research was to make urban (renewable) energy flows intelligible for planners and designers, which was achieved by the development of a new visualization method. A thorough literature study on urban climatology, urban renewable energy potentials and visualization, informed the new visualization method. The visualization method was mainly developed by research through designing, which included the planning, data collection, creation and review of the new visualizations.
Animated 3D visualizations, with the use of particle systems, appeared to be the most adequate technique in representing dynamic urban energy flows. A student survey revealed that by using animated 3D visualizations, (urban) planners and designers were able to comprehend the urban environment in terms of (renewable) energy flows. With the new method, (urban) planners and designers will be able to understand the complex interactions of energy in urban environments and how these interactions could benefit the environmental performance of the urban landscape.