The Comfort Pursuit

Thesis update: submission time

unnamedThings have been quiet around here, but instead of apologizing, I prefer to provide a good reason: last week I submitted my PhD thesis. Although this is not the end of the PhD candidature, as I still have the examination ahead, it is a huge milestone in the process.

Life only started to go back to normal when I saved the last file when I had the final product printed and in my hands. Those two hours while the four copies for the examiners were being printed were much more nervous than I anticipated. But this stage of the candidature is finally completed.

The photo below, featuring the PhD candidate holding the thesis just before submitting it has become a sort of ‘rite of passage’ at Lincoln University. So here we go: I had mine done!

Photo by Bernadette Mani, the Postgraduate Administration Team Leader

My deepest gratitude goes toΒ everyone whom in one way or another has been part of this process. The discussions and support from friends and colleagues in ‘real life’, and on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and Facebook have been extremely helpful both on providing different perspectives and horizons, and on helping me to keep sane. Many many thanks!

The thesis is entitled Urban Comfort: Adapting to urban microclimate in post-earthquake Christchurch, and here is the final abstract:

The urban environment influences the way people live and shape their everyday lives, and microclimate sensitive design can enhance the use of urban streets and public spaces. Innovative approaches to urban microclimate design will become more important as the world’s population becomes ever more urban, and climate change generates more variability and extremes in urban microclimatic conditions. Β However, established methods of investigation based upon conventions drawn from building services research and framed by physiological concepts of thermal comfort may fail to capture the social dynamics of urban activity and their interrelationship with microclimate. This research investigates the relationship between microclimate and urban culture in Christchurch, New Zealand, based upon the concept of urban comfort. Urban comfort is defined as the socio-cultural (therefore collective) adaptation to microclimate due to satisfaction with the urban environment. It involves consideration of a combination of human thermal comfort requirements and adaptive comfort circumstances, preferences and strategies. A main methodological challenge was to investigate urban comfort in a city undergoing rapid physical change following a series of major earthquakes (2010-2011), and that also has a strongly seasonal climate which accentuates microclimatic variability. The field investigation had to be suitable for rapidly changing settings as buildings were demolished and rebuilt, and be able to capture data relevant to a cycle of seasons. These local circumstances meant that Christchurch was valuable as an example of a city facing rapid and unpredictable change. An interpretive, integrative, and adaptive research strategy that combined qualitative social science methods with biophysical measures was adopted. The results are based upon participant observation, 86 in-depth interviews with Christchurch residents and microclimate data measurements. The interviews were carried out in a variety of urban settings including established urban settings (places sustaining relatively little damage) and emerging urban settings (those requiring rebuilding) during 2011-2013. Results of this research show that urban comfort depends on adaptive strategies which in turn depend on culture. Adaptive strategies identified through the data analysis show a strong connection between natural and built landscapes, combined with the regional outdoor culture, the Garden City identity and the rural and urban connections. The results also highlight that thermal comfort is an important but insufficient indicator of good microclimate design, as social and cultural values are important influences on climate experience and adaptation. Interpretive research is needed to fully understand urban comfort and to provide urban microclimate design solutions to enhance the use of public open spaces in cities undergoing change.

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