The Comfort Pursuit

Research projects

Blending Technology and Studio Teaching: Non-Face-to-Face Learning by Doing
Podcasting Urbanism
Sensing Cities: Smart Thermal Comfort and Climate Adaptation
Economic Benefits of Urban Comfort
Urban Climate Adaptation Strategies: A New Zealand Contribution
Promoting Urban Comfort in a Compact Future: Developing Urban Comfort as an Analytical Tool
Urban Comfort: Adaptive Capacity in Post Earthquake Christchurch

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Blending Technology and Studio Teaching: Non-Face-to-Face Learning by Doing

Studio is a traditional teaching style in architecture and arts which implies a hands-on learning by doing approach. In times where teaching – particularly tertiary teaching – has been moving more and more to online environments, there is a need to discuss the future of studio-based teaching. How can blended learning be used in practical and visual disciplines? Is it possible to substitute the intensive face-to-face studio?

Grant
JCU’s BLING Grant

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Podcasting Urbanism: Promoting Urban Sustainability through Accessible Education and Community Engagement

Podcasts have gained space in areas of education, research, practice, news, and leisure. As digital media files, they are available to be assessed and downloaded through the Internet, and the increase of digital media consumption due to its accessibility, schedule flexibility, and low or no cost contributes to podcasts popularity. Although podcasts have been largely discussed in other areas, there has not been sufficient empirical investigation of their uses, roles, and outcomes in areas related to urbanism. In this work, we are interested in the podcasts’ role on creating public awareness, community education and engagement, and the ways they can help to promote more sustainable urban places. This exploratory research is based on an online anonymous survey aimed at identifying the three most popular urbanism-related podcasts worldwide. These three podcasts are then investigated regarding their focus and structure, as well as roles and outcomes. Based upon media history, podcasts fill a gap in education, as they essentially provide information in easily digestible format that would otherwise be technical and focused upon professionals of the area. Podcasts have an important role on bringing pressing issues into people’s radar, and therefore contributing to awareness and action in urban-related areas.

Team
Aline Peres

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Sensing Cities: Smart Thermal Comfort and Climate Adaptation

This is a cross-disciplinary project focused upon Smart Cities. Work is being undertaken at JCU in regards to data collection related to smart streetlights, smart water metering, smart waste bins, smart car parks, smart healthcare devices, and so forth. This project adds a climate perspective to the smart cities approach, particularly regarding urban heating in a context of global warming. A cloud-based platform will be connected to sensors providing real-time climate and weather data collection. The sensors will be strategically placed for meaningful urban climate data collection, capturing temperature and humidity to assess thermal comfort. This data will allow the creation of a city map showing urban heat islands (UHI) on a macro- and micro-scale. The outcome will then help explore current uses and inform needed city improvements, helping local government and designers to make strategic decisions about protecting wind and breeze corridors, choosing building materials, placing street trees, green walls and roofs, and promoting shade.

Team
A/Professor Lisa Law, Professor Xiang Wei, Bronson Philippa, Sophie Barrett

Grants
JCU’s Research Infrastructure Block Grant (RIGB)

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Economic Benefits of Urban Comfort

The way people live and shape their everyday lives in cities is affected by the qualities of the urban environment. Climate, and in particular urban microclimate, are important variables that influence the life of public open spaces. Microclimate is often treated as a technical design factor aiming to achieve thermal comfort assessed against human physiology. However, there is evidence to suggest that regional cultures also shape the way people respond to urban microclimate and environment. Understanding how sociocultural values prompt or inhibit adaptation to different microclimate conditions can improve urban design and planning strategies focused on climate change adaption. This investigation is based on the concept of urban comfort, which considers comfort in public open spaces as a construct and cultural product rather than only as a human physiological attribute. Similar research has previously been carried out in Christchurch (New Zealand) and Aachen (Germany). Results suggest that urban comfort is shaped by urban and regional sociocultural factors, which influence people’s expectations and desires resulting in particular location decisions and preferred urban design solutions. Urban comfort has implications for urban economies, public health, tourism, and climate change strategies. The purpose of this project is to start the investigation about the relationships between urban comfort and economy, through a study of Cairns.

Team
A/Professor Lisa Law

Grants
JCU Startup Grant

Publications

 

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Urban Climate Adaptation: A New Zealand Contribution

Urbanization is one of the twenty-first century’s most transformative trends, and increasing urban population along with the impacts of climate change provide new challenges and new opportunities. However, there are significant differences in the way countries are perceiving the phenomenon of climate change and implementing adaptation strategies to improve urban climate. This paper reports on a study carried out in New Zealand and aimed at identifying how the country is implementing adaptation strategies through urban design and planning to improve urban climate in the face of climate change. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with New Zealand scholars studying urban climate related issues, urban design and planning practitioners, and governance. The study was designed to provide a wide range of perceptions rather than a set number of interviews in specific cities. The semi-structured interviews focused upon awareness of the need for climate change adaptation, existing urban climate phenomena as a consequence of design decisions, existing design strategies to improve climate adaptation, communication of climate change issues, existing policy instruments and implementation of initiatives. The paper discusses the perceptions of interviewees regarding awareness and urgency of action; the role of citizens, governance, and urban designers and planners in the urban climate adaptation agenda; and the role of dramatic events such as the Christchurch earthquakes on acknowledging the need for appropriate design and planning. Results indicate that the geographical condition of New Zealand and its consequent maritime climate means that climate change – particularly effects related to city design – are not seen as a major issue. However, the recent Christchurch earthquakes have sped up the processes of change, making citizens and governance more aware of consequences of inappropriate design and planning.

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Promoting Urban Comfort in a Compact Future: Developing Urban Comfort as an Analytical Tool

This work uses urban comfort as an analytical lens to investigate the way compact and green imperatives are being resolved in the rebuild of central Christchurch following the 2010-11 earthquakes. The investigation is focused on the emerging precincts, streets, courtyards, and lanes of the Christchurch CBD (Central Business District). Before the earthquakes, Christchurch was characterised as a ‘Garden City’, and while there were few green streets or spaces in the old city centre, the title expressed a distinctive regional culture that valued outdoor recreation and activities, open green space, and a provincial style of urban living. The earthquakes radically changed the city’s character, resulting in clearance of around 800 buildings from the damaged CBD (Carlton, 2013) and over the past 6 years the central city rebuild has been the focus of a series of design initiatives that face many of the issues involved in resolving green and compact ideals.

Team
Professor Simon Swaffield

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Urban Comfort: Adaptive Capacity in Post Earthquake Christchurch

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 investigated 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.

Grant
Lincoln University PhD Teacher Fellow Scholarship

Publications

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