Urban Design

Urban and Master Planning

What we do

We follow a three-step approach to minimize energy use and maximize comfort in a master plan. Included in our analysis are the three architectural forms: buildings, streets and open spaces.

First, we consider the layout of the site to take advantage of the energy and comfort performance potential of the local climate. This includes optimizing building massing and street layout for solar, wind and daylight potential. For example, a series of tall office towers along a narrow street can create an uncomfortable wind tunnel effect for pedestrians and should be avoided. The tall buildings also shade the shorter, neighboring buildings; this reduces the daylight availability in the shorter buildings, which is detrimental for energy and comfort performance, as people use electric lighting more and lose visual connection to the outdoor environment.

Secondly, we aim to reduce each building’s energy demand through passive design, smart technical systems and high-quality construction strategies. For example, after daylight potential is maximized in step 1, the buildings need to have the correct amount of glazing, and the glazing must face the correct orientation to allow the daylight to enter. Furthermore, the glazing must perform thermally to reduce the heating and cooling demands of the building. In a masterplan the details of the individual building are often not defined, but guidelines for the future buildings can be created.

Thirdly, we develop high-efficiency heating and/or cooling supply systems that are appropriate for the region. Our main considerations include fuel source, building load diversity, equipment and distribution networks, and how these items change in response to the anticipated performance of the buildings. Finally, we look at how much renewable energy generation is possible, based on carbon-reduction targets and cost efficiency.


How we do it

For each of these three steps, we first develop an understanding of the context by assessing existing buildings and neighborhoods, then work with the stakeholders to develop potential interventions. We evaluate and rank the potential interventions from a technical perspective. Finally, we provide recommended strategies.

Through a collaborative, iterative process with the architect, client, other consultants and stakeholders, Transsolar helps guide the development of concepts and designs through analyses and recommendations. Dynamic thermal simulation, computational fluid dynamics, and computational daylight analysis are standard to our work. Physical models are also often used.


The accuracy and flexibility of these analyses not only bring a high degree of confidence to innovative concepts, but also enable optimization of architectural and mechanical components, minimizing equipment and energy costs.

Close attention to the totality of the physical environment has the potential to reduce energy use dramatically at competitive costs. Our experience is that the architectural integration of passive design principles combined with high performance mechanical systems can achieve over 50% energy savings relative to typical designs. Careful integration can also optimize comfort in both interior and exterior spaces, improving productivity and fostering a richer use of the urban environment.

Of course, we also go beyond technical analysis of solutions. In each of our projects we work closely with the client, architects, engineers and local builders to design a solution that meets the local context both from a feasibility and cost perspective.