The influence of urban design on outdoor thermal comfort in the hot, humid city of Colombo, Sri Lanka

Erik Johansson*, Rohinton Emmanuel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

283 Citations (Scopus)


The outdoor environment is deteriorating in many tropical cities due to rapid urbanization. This leads to a number of problems related to health and well-being of humans and also negatively affects social and commercial outdoor activities. The creation of thermally comfortable microclimates in urban environments is therefore very important. This paper discusses the influence of street-canyon geometry on outdoor thermal comfort in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Five sites with different urban geometry, ground cover, and distance from the sea were studied during the warmest season. The environmental parameters affecting thermal comfort, viz. air temperature, humidity, wind speed, and solar radiation, were measured, and the thermal comfort was estimated by calculating the physiologically equivalent temperature (PET). The thermal comfort is far above the assumed comfort zone due to the combination of intense solar radiation, high temperatures, and low wind speeds, especially on clear days. The worst conditions were found in wide streets with low-rise buildings and no shade trees. The most comfortable conditions were found in narrow streets with tall buildings, especially if shade trees were present, as well as in areas near the coast where the sea breeze had a positive effect. In order to improve the outdoor comfort in Colombo, it is suggested to allow a more compact urban form with deeper street canyons and to provide additional shade through the use of trees, covered walkways, pedestrian arcades, etc. The opening up of the city's coastal strip would allow the sea breeze to penetrate further into the city.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)119-133
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Journal of Biometeorology
Early online date20 Jul 2006
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Outdoor thermal comfort
  • Urban microclimate
  • Urban design
  • Hot humid climate
  • Colombo

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


Dive into the research topics of 'The influence of urban design on outdoor thermal comfort in the hot, humid city of Colombo, Sri Lanka'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this