Urban spaces are experiencing warmer microclimates as the combined result of climate change and the Urban Heat Island (UHI) effect. While climate change projections indicate a likely increase of 2°C in Australia by 2070, an additional heat load of 10°C exists in the built environment. The question is how and to what extent contemporary public spaces can become more resilient to such high temperatures?
This PhD research investigates the social impacts of heat stress in Australian cities. Two intertwined concepts of Spatial Thermal Resilience (indicating physical ability to maintain thermal environment close to humans' thermal comfort) and Activity Thermal Resilience (indicating ability to maintain normal activities in the thermal discomfort conditions) are proposed and tested in three case studies in Darling Quarter (Sydney), Federation Square (Melbourne) and Hajek Plaza (Adelaide). Data collection includes thermal photography, climate measurement and direct observation (air temperatures range: 16-42°C; surface temperatures range: 10°C- 65°C). The data is analysed via correlational and regression analysis and findings are triangulated via a closed questionnaire survey.
Results indicate that necessary, optional and social activities in public spaces with soft landscapes (facilitated by urban greenery and controllable surface water) and smart shadow coverage have higher STR values. Optional activities (including preferred and adjustable activities) start to decline after the apparent temperature reaches the threshold of 28-32°C. However, necessary activities (including vital and habitual) and social activities (including simultaneous, managed and cultural) have a higher neutral thermal threshold of 36°C. Research findings contribute to urban design knowledge by providing STR and ATR as quality indicators for public space and a set of guidelines to facilitate more heat-resilient urban spaces.
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Climate change projections indicate a likely 3.8°C increase in the average temperature in Australia by 2090. During summer, outdoor heat-stress causes significant thermal discomfort, altering outdoor living preferences. This paper aims to explore the neutral and critical thresholds for outdoor thermal adaptation. The paper reports on outdoor activity change during different outdoor microclimates in Darling harbour, Sydney. Results indicate that outdoor participants adjust their insulation and activity rate by an outdoor neutral thermal threshold of 28-30°C.
During summer heatwaves, public spaces are frequently warmer than human thermal comfort preferences in a majority of Australian Cities. Citizens’ preferences of public space elements and supportive features during heat-stress conditions are under particular focus in this paper. Outdoor activity choices in different thermal environments were surveyed in Adelaide from September 2013 to April 2014. This post-activity survey indicates that necessary, optional and social activities decreased during outdoor heat-stress more than any other thermal conditions.
Australia has had seven extreme heatwaves since the beginning of the 20th century. During heatwaves, public spaces in cities are frequently warmer than is confortable for humans. The regional warming projection of 2-5°C in Australia (by 2070) will be added to an existing 4-8°C extra heat in higher urban densities. This extra urban heat is because of urban structures, land cover, lifestyle and lack of landscape. Under question is how and to what extent contemporary public spaces can become more resilient to emerging higher temperatures in cities while maintaining their usability.
Outdoor thermal discomfort pushes citizens into air-conditioned buildings and causes increased demand for water and electricity in the majority of Australian urban heat islands. Citizens’ spatial and activity preferences during heat stress conditions are under investigation in this paper.