Abu Dhabi Climate Resilience Initiative


As global temperatures rise, the impacts of urban heat island are becoming increasingly dangerous. As one of the world’s hottest cities, Abu Dhabi faces this intensifying threat head on.

The Abu Dhabi Climate Resilience Initiative is a citywide public realm improvement program focused on improving pedestrian thermal comfort levels in an outdoor, desert climate through a series of tactical urban interventions. The program introduces three prototypical climate intervention pilots focused on human comfort, passive design, and replicability: a pocket park, mosque plaza, and urban intersection. Employing climate science, extensive urban research, and rigorous testing, the Initiative implements a combination of climate-sensitive strategies to reduce urban heat island effects in an environmentally responsible way. Rather than a one-size-fits-all approach, the pilots integrate multiple cooling strategies based on careful analysis of each site. The multi-layered design strategy simultaneously addresses direct and indirect solar gain, wind channeling, evaporative cooling, and use of local materials. With a focus on everyday public spaces frequented by a diverse demographic, the pilots aim to efficiently improve human comfort. Redefining the traditional public realm approach, the pilots optimize pedestrian comfort levels during shoulder periods – rather than targeting extreme summer heat – expanding the duration of time public spaces can be used, while inducing the least thermal stress. According to post-occupancy data, this data-driven, evidence-based approach successfully lowered the universal thermal climate index (UTCI) by approximately 9-10 degrees at each pilot site within the targeted timeframe. This proven methodology can be used to significantly inform resiliency efforts in cities worldwide.