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This topic overlaps with that of Site and Security, in order to address the areas surrounding the tower block.

Microclimate can relate to issues beyond the extent of the site, as a collection of tower blocks can incur overly windy conditions. Landscaping – hard and soft - on the site can mitigate this problem.

Incorporating issues like enhancement of the site’s ecology, improved environmental systems for drainage and rainwater collection, low maintenance planting into a landscape scheme should be considered, along with the provision of amenity spaces like gardens, children’s play area. A good landscape design can aid in making the spatial zones around the block clearly legible: the service areas (rubbish collection etc) can be separated from the entrance, and the approach to the building entrance can be clearly and safely marked.




Provide outdoor community areas

Allow for natural surveillance


Provide windbreaks and canopies


Enhancing surrounding environment

Providing outdoor community areas


Providing well designed outdoor community recreation areas adjacent to the tower can turn unused space into a valuable resource for residents.


Outdoor community areas can be designed for passive uses such as meeting, sitting or relaxing, or offer spaces for active pursuits such as children’s play and sports. A mix of different uses encourages a broad range of participation from all age groups in the community and can help to reduce anti-social behaviour. Give different areas a unique character relating to the proposed activity through a variety of approaches to landscape design and materials.


To ensure that community areas are well used and therefore a success, it is important that they respond to real needs. The participation of residents is key in determining the range of activities that may be appropriate. It is also important that any new provision complements existing local community facilities and is as accessible as possible.


Badly designed and poorly maintained community areas can be a focus for crime and vandalism so it is important that the local Crime Prevention Officer is consulted when proposals are being considered. To reduce potential problems locate facilities so they can be supervised passively by residents from the tower or by the concierge service if this is available. Clear boundaries that are visually open and appropriately secure must be defined around community areas and access routes should be safe. The following are some potential recreation areas that could be considered:


·         Community and Nature Gardens

·         Allotments

·         Children’s Play areas

·         Skate Parks

·         Youth shelters

·         Multi-use games area

·         Sports Pitch


More active uses could potentially cause noise and visual disturbance, especially at night, so consider creating a buffer zone between community resource areas, the tower and other neighbouring buildings, and possibly restricting opening hours.


One key decision that will have a large impact on the location and management of the proposed facilities is whether they will be exclusively for residents use or open to the wider community. Opening up facilities can have a positive social effect and mean facilities get more use but can also introduce additional security problems.  



  • Well designed community facilities can encourage outdoor recreation and sport

  • Increasing activity outside the tower can improve natural surveillance and security

Typical Cost

□  n/a

Funding opportunities:

□  n/a

Also see:

□  Enhancing surrounding environment

More information:

□  n/a


□ n/a

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Provide wind breaks

The speed of wind at the top of a building is considerably higher than at the ground level. Tall buildings tend to deflect the high-level winds down to ground level, [downdrafts] affecting the local wind environment at the base of the building.

Although the interaction of wind with a high-rise building will depend strongly on local wind conditions, site geometry and location, it is noted that the main phenomena of importance are:

  • Strong downdraught on the wind ward face

  • Strong up draught on the leeward side and presence of a re-circulation region

  • Formation of strong vortical wake at ground level ['eddy' currents]

Excessive wind speeds can lead to wind discomfort, either due to wind nuisance effects or increased thermal exposure (wind chill, caused by the cooling effect of the wind). Other issues to consider include:

  • Wind safety

  • Wind discomfort

  • Infiltration to buildings

  • Accumulation of litter

  • Impact on landscape

Wink breaks

Provision of canopies above the ground floor, podium, wind gutters, and vegetation around the building can help in preventing the downdraft affecting the pedestrians. Canopies are especially effective at the areas such as entrances to the tower block



  • Pedestrian protection from wind at tower access points and along key routes

  • Wind comfort in public and shared spaces

  • Comfort in public and shared spaces

Typical Cost

□  Provision of a wind skirt: £500-£1000/m2

□  Planting trees [5-8m high]: £400-£2000/tree


Funding opportunities:

□  n/a


More information:

□  http://irc.nrc-cnrc.gc.ca/cbd/cbd174e.html

□ BRE, 1972. Wind Environment Around Tall Buildings. Digest 141.


□ BMT Fluid Mechanics

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The use of planting can be a very successful means of softening and greening the tower block environment. With good landscape design it is possible to introduce attractive planting to the site without compromising natural surveillance.


One of the main reasons for security problems with existing landscaping is lack of adequate management. It is very important when new landscaping is proposed that sustainable maintenance arrangements are in place from the outset and that low maintenance planting schemes are considered.


At the design stage try and avoid the creation of potential hiding places by specifying trees with open branches or a columnar structure. Keep a clear surveillance zone between 1m and 2m off the ground through any planted areas by choosing shrubs with a restricted mature height and trees with no foliage at a low level. Maintain the planting regularly and remove branches and foliage that block sightlines.


Try to create clear views along paths by arranging borders with the lower plants at the front and taller plants to the back. Avoid placing large trees near routes as they can be used as hiding places.



Other considerations


Existing Trees

Make sure that existing trees cannot be used as climbing aids to access property or vandalise external fittings. Check that trees do not block external lighting or the view from CCTV cameras.



  • Reduction of opportunities for crime and anti-social behaviour to occur

  • Improved sense of safety for residents

Typical Cost

□  n/a

Funding opportunities:
□  n/a

Also see:

□  Secured by Design

More information:

□  The local police force will advise


□  n/a

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Enhancing the surrounding environment


The quality of people’s homes is influenced by the spaces around them. There is increasing recognition that well-designed, well-managed green spaces by and in between housing are crucial to making neighbourhoods liveable, and contribute to people’s quality of life.


Social housing estates are all too often some of the worst urban landscapes. Adequate maintenance is central to keeping a block in good order, but a sustainable development approach should seek to do more than this and actually work to improve the social and ecological quality of the area.


The Government is now addressing the declining quality of many parks and urban green spaces. New policy guidance, the establishment of CABE Space and new funding programmes, are all aiming to raise the quality of our urban green spaces. While there may not be resources to turn uncared for land into a quality park, well-designed local green space can still offer:

• tranquility

• play space

• communal space

• health benefits

• connection with the natural world


What needs to be done

Work to enhance green spaces needs to focus on:

·         Meeting the needs of the residents

·         Bringing about a real and clear improvement

·         Improving the local biodiversity

·         Ensuring that the improvements can be properly maintained


It may be useful to get expert help from organisations such as Groundwork or BTCV who are skilled in local environmental improvement. They will be able to help both on working with local residents to get their ideas and also on doing an initial survey to assess the quality of the existing environment. They will also be able to advise on existing good practice in the area and may well have idea son suitable funding sources to carry out the work


Enhance ecological impact

Most built environments have a negative impact on the ecology of the surround areas. Ecological impact refers to a habitat or species being affected directly or indirectly due to changes in the environment brought about by human development. The principle is first to minimise damage to the existing local ecology during the refurbishment process and then to enhance it as far as practicable.


Planting native trees:

The site's ecology can be further enhanced by adding native trees and shrubs/hedge planting through sensitive landscaping.


Bat and Nest boxes:

Bat are becoming rare in the UK due to the lack of suitable roosting sites. Gardens can be valuable feed for birds and with shrubs and hedges attractive to moths and other insects, the surround areas may be able to support bat population.


Good Horticultural practices
It is important to implement good horticultural practice in any landscaping scheme. this includes, of pest free composts, mulch and soil conditioners. The use of herbicides and pesticides is discouraged, to prevent negative effects on invertebrates and/or mammals and birds. Any herbicides used should be non-residual.


Other considerations


·         Environmental improvements should work with the local ecology: it is important to find out what plants are naturally suited to growing in the area where you are working.

·         Creating wildlife areas will need to be balanced with the need to ensure the area is and feels safe for people walking.

·         Involving the block residents in practical work may well help to cut vandalism

·       A simple sheltered area where residents can hold barbeques, picnics etc. can be simple to set up and may be very popular.

·         If a garden or wildlife area is to be created this may well need to be fenced off, with security and budgetary implications.


The keys to successful enhancement are two-fold. One key is a clear plan agreed with residents that is feasible and can be developed over time. The second is to have a clear maintenance agreement, with the local council, an environmental body or indeed with the local residents, and the budget to ensure that this work is done.



  • Reduce the heat-island effect on the locality

  • Encourage the introduction of new flora and fauna, including birds, into the urban environment

  • Balance the ecosystem with more biotic material and encourage biodiversity

  • Creating more attractive and safer surroundings

Typical Cost

□  n/a

Funding opportunities:

□  n/a


More information:

□  www.greenflagaward.org.uk

□  www.jncc.gov.uk

□  www.soilassociation.org

□  www.cabespace.org.uk

□  www.english-nature.org.uk

□  www.groundwork.org.uk

□  www.housing.gov.uk

□  www.btcv.org

□  www.ncb.org.uk

□  ‘Decent homes, Decent spaces’ English Nature / Peabody Trust 2004


□ www.marshalls.com

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