Wind tunnel measurements of the total drag force for aligned arrays of cubes exposed to two different boundary-layer flows at three flow velocities are discussed. The drag force for eight different building packing densities λp (from 0.028 to 1) is measured with a standard load cell generating a novel dataset. Different λp are reproduced by increasing the number of buildings on the same lot area; this represents a real situation that an urban planner is faced with when a lot area of a given (fixed) size is allocated to the development of new built areas. It is assumed that the surrounding terrain is uniform and there is a transition from a given roughness (smooth) to a new roughness (rough). The approaching flow will adjust itself over the new surface within a distance that in general may be larger than the horizontal length covered by the array. We investigate the region where the flow adjustment occurs. The wide range of packing densities allowed us to analyse in detail the evolution of the drag force. The drag force increases with increasing packing densities until it reaches a maximum at an intermediate packing density (λp = 0.25 in our case) followed by a slight decrease at larger packing densities. The value of the drag force depends on the flow adjustment along the array which is evaluated by introducing the parameter “drag area” to retrieve information about the drag distribution at different λp. Results clearly suggest a change of the distribution of the drag force, which is found to be relatively uniform at low packing densities, while most of the force acts on first rows of the arrays at large packing densities. The drag area constitutes the basis for the formulation of a new adjustment length scale defined as the ratio between the volume of the air within the array and the drag area. The proposed adjustment length scale automatically takes into account the change in drag distribution along the array for a better parameterization of urban effects in dispersion models.
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