The Comfort Pursuit

News: PhD Thesis available

In the past four years I have been talking to many different people and in many different places about the research I was doing, the questions I was pursuing, the fieldwork, the challenges… So many things.

At Lincoln University the deposit of the thesis in the library is the very last step, after the oral presentation. We don’t have to hand in a printed copy, so the only four printed four copies belong to my supervisors, the library of the School of Landscape Architecture, and my bookshelf. I still have to look at it every now and then to believe I have that ‘black book’ complete and approved.

The full pdf is available here, and I’d love to receive your questions and comments, and keep the conversation going. If you prefer to contact me directly, please do it here.

Title: Urban comfort: Adaptive capacity in post-earthquake Christchurch
Type: Thesis
Originally published: 2015 by Lincoln University
Keywords: microclimate; adaptation; adaptive capacity; culture; urban design; Christchurch; New Zealand; comfort; urban landscape; urbanisation; Canterbury earthquakes
Fields of Research: ANZSRC Fields of Research::12 – Built Environment and Design::1201 – Architecture; ANZSRC Fields of Research::12 – Built Environment and Design::1205 – Urban and Regional Planning; ANZSRC Fields of Research::12 – Built Environment and Design::1205 – Urban and Regional Planning::120508 – Urban Design; ANZSRC Fields of Research::12 – Built Environment and Design::1205 – Urban and Regional Planning::120501 – Community Planning

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. 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 connections between rural and urban landscapes. 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.

2 thoughts on “News: PhD Thesis available”

  1. Thank you for posting this. I intend to read it properly but have had a quick read of some of your findings and conclusions and think this is great. I’ve been doing some research about the roles of cafes in urban communities and your ideas about urban comfort clearly have a lot of relevance for some of the things I’ve been seeing. I’d would be great to talk about your work a bit more – when I have had the chance to read it more closely. Well done for producing this!

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