This thesis focuses on the impacts of building regulations, in the form of building codes, on the development of an urban fabric. In particular, it investigates the role of building codes on a place that has an inherent sociocultural structure that manifests itself spatially. Using Kuwait City, a once traditional Islamic city, impacts of ‘international’ standards employed through master planning are explored at the neighborhood scale. Kuwait City serves as an ideal case study because of its historic Islamic and Arabic urban pattern that was derived from sociocultural customs, religious beliefs and terrestrial conditions. These influences resulted in a once cohesive city of a courtyard house typology, with narrow and shaded alleyways structured on longitudinal corridors of diverse land-uses promoting access and connectivity; however, the Minoprio, Spencely, and Macfarlane master plan of 1951 eradicated this close-knit urban fabric in favor of “modern” planning ideals which were loosely based on a fusion of Ebenezer Howard’s Garden City and Clarence Perry’s Neighborhood Unit. The 1951 plan called for a tabula rasa and relocation of homes from the historic city center to newly formed ‘super-blocks’ and ‘neighborhood units’. Houses were built following strict building codes governing building heights, floor- area-ratio, and plot-line setbacks, along with other regulations. The Kuwait Building Code (KBC), introduced in 1955, is based on Western planning ideals that are far removed from the existing contextual complexities of Kuwait City.
This thesis will unpack the KBC by virtually translating this canonical text into its parametric spatial envelope, proposing a framework to evaluate its impact on the performance of the urban environment. Using urban modeling and micro-climate simulation tools, the virtual build-up of the rules will allow for a quantifiable examination to evaluate the putative “efficiency” of a modernist building code that determines urban form, by considering multiple performance metrics. By objectively evaluating the role that the KBC plays in determining future urban quality, this research aims to make the case for building in enough space within the code to allow for a more diverse influence of performance indicators to promote a ‘resilient and sustainable’ built environment at the neighborhood level.