Urban planning in the Arctic – how to plan for the extreme?

Monday 20 May 19


PhD student Jennifer Fiebig researches in urban planning in the Arctic by examining snowdrift – through fieldwork and with substitute materials in the laboratory. The goal: To enable guidelines on how to build smart in extreme environments.

Jennifer Fiebig, PhD student at DTU Civil Engineering, is focusing on urban planning in the Arctic in her thesis “Snow and wind in Arctic built environments” that will be finished in December. 

In the project, Jennifer Fiebig has used field observations in Greenland, models and wind tunnel testing to simulate snowdrift in urban Arctic setting. The overall goal of the research is to include snowdrift considerations in guidelines for smarter architectural design in extreme environments.

“The Arctic requires unique strategies for urban planning. What I have seen in Greenland is a rather European way of building. This means that accumulating snow around structures, melting and freezing again, is causing damages to the buildings,” Jennifer Fiebig explains as the motivation for optimizing urban planning in the Arctic. 

Baking powder and sawdust replace the snow 

In order to simulate snowdrift in the wind tunnel, Jennifer Fiebig has worked with a range of substitute materials: baking powder, potato starch, wheat flour, natron, sawdust, semolina, wheat bran, and sand.

The first conclusions of these tests are that the context is very important for the choice of snow substitute.

“Some substitute materials have more advantages than others for specific snow accumulation phenomena. The choice of material for testing should rather be based on expected dominating accumulation phenomena than on a ‘one material fits all purposes’ approach. My hope is that if we are able to validate our tests with the full-scale observations, this will enable us to prepare guidelines on how to build smart in Arctic regions, tailored for these extreme conditions,” clarifies Jennifer Fiebig.

As part of her PhD education, Jennifer Fiebig has produced a movie about her research. The movie, which is available in the top of this article, is entirely recorded, produced and narrated by Jennifer Fiebig.

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