The Comfort Pursuit

Public Microclimates

I have recently published a book chapter entitled ‘Public Microclimates: Thermal Outdoor Expectations in Post-Earthquake Christchurch (New Zealand)’, in the book ‘The Urban Microclimate as Artifact: Towards an Architectural Theory of Thermal Diversity’ by Sascha Roesler and Madlen Kobi.

This is an extremely interesting book for anyone interested in the ‘creation’ and ‘conceptions’ of urban microclimates. Here are the aims and scope of this book:

Urban microclimates cannot be explained solely on the basis of scientific phenomena, but are also affected materially and spatially by the city’s local architecture. The layout, design, and facade construction of buildings have a major impact on wind and temperature conditions. For this reason, architecture and urban design that have an effect on microclimates must be investigated in their social and cultural contexts.

The publication uses international case studies to explain these relationships. The focus is on manifestations of urban microclimates in an architectural and urban design context. The places investigated are located in France, Italy, the USA, New Zealand, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Burkina Faso.

 

And the abstract of my chapter:

While indoor microclimates are readily controllable by air conditioning, urban outdoor microclimates are often accepted as public open spaces with innate characteristics. There are, however, psychological factors and cultural expectations that influence microclimate experience in open spaces. As public open spaces are essentially congregational social spaces, social activity and accessibility influence people’s adaptation to the thermal conditions of the urban environment. The challenge, therefore, is to identify the place-based and local sociocultural values that shape the use of public urban microclimates. Based upon the theory that physical and social landscapes co-constitute urban microclimates, this chapter approaches people’s response to outdoor microclimates as a product of regional context. Thus, I consider the landscape to be one of the variables integrated into regional identities and responses to climate. The general adaptive capacity concept refers to the ability of systems and people to cope with external stress factors. Adaptive capacity is used here as the capacity of humans to adjust to the existing thermal environment, even if the local conditions are outside the scientifically-defined comfort zone. In addition to the physiological perceptions, microclimates are embedded in socio-cultural practices and meanings.

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