Climate-Responsive Landscape Architecture Design Education: Preparing Students to Mitigate Urban Climate in a Warming World

Published on
December 14, 2012

This article is accepted for publishing in a special issue about education for sustainability aspects in the Journal of Cleaner Production.

Article authors: Sanda Lenzholzer and Bob Brown (Guelph)

Journal of Cleaner Production


There is compelling evidence that Earth’s climate is changing, in most cases becoming warmer.  This effect is exacerbated in urban environments by the growth of urban heat islands. These two processes can have far-reaching effects on human thermal comfort and health. Landscape architecture is well positioned to ameliorate these effects through planning and site design, but only if the designer understands how an urban environment creates microclimates. In order to prepare our students for the climate challenges they will face in future urban planning and design practice, we have introduced climate-responsive design classes into the curricula of two schools of landscape architecture, one in Wageningen, The Netherlands and the other in Guelph, Canada. In this article we describe the methods that we used to teach climate-responsive design by integrating scientific information into the creative design process. The method consisted of three main steps. First students accumulated and summarized climate knowledge at the appropriate scales. This information was used to analyze a study site and identify climate-related problems. The final step was to use this knowledge as a basis for generating design solutions and testing them for their climate-appropriateness. These courses prepare future professionals to ameliorate the effects of climate change and urban heat island intensification and create living environments that are thermally comfortable and healthy.