Historic settlements are a type of architecture adapted to local climate and geographical environment. For hundreds of years, people have been living in them. Rich and precious scientific design concepts of these organic settlements, including the site selection, the layout, and the building materials, should be investigated extensively. To explore these concepts, different historic settlements will be presented and discussed, in terms of different design elements and urban planning forms, and through the use of computational fluid dynamics (CFD). This paper presents the strategic ideas and methodology of the study. As an illustrative case study, the ambient wind environment within the Shang-gan-tang village in China has been investigated quantitatively adopting CFD (computational fluid dynamics) techniques. The interactions between settlement selection, layout, landscape and ambient environment were evaluated. The sustainable urban planning experiences were then summarized for guiding the creation of sustainable modern human settlement suitable for people living for hundreds of years. ©2012 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.