Performance standard for tropical outdoors: a proposal in a time of climate change

    Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper

    Abstract

    Unusual (>3 standard deviations above the base climate of 1951-1980) and unprecedented (>5 SD) heat extremes are expected to be the norm in much of tropical Asia and Africa in the near term even as these regions undergo transformational social and economic change. Consequently, tropical cooling load – much of which is currently latent due to low levels of economic development – is likely to be the dominant category of global energy demand. Yet, deep technological development and efficiency improvements in cooling systems are yet to be achieved. To make matters worse, cultural practices and attitudes limit adaptive possibilities to warmer temperatures even as the improving socioeconomic conditions in the tropics lead to ‘thermal indulgence.’ One likely outcome of these developments is an unrealistic thermal comfort expectation in the tropics that is in direct conflict with the ‘global good’ of low/zero carbon economy. A compromise has to be reached based on societal priorities to ensure low energy expenditure without confining tropical dwellers to an inferior thermal comfort.
    This paper argues that defining urban thermal comfort is critical to enhance the quality of life of tropical dwellers as their cities continue their historically unique urban trajectories. This also bodes well from an equity standpoint. However, care is needed to ensure such standards reflect the activity patterns unique to the region. Among other things, this will necessitate that the standards be coupled with non-thermal attributes of the urban commons.
    Specifically, it will propose the linking of the ‘in’ to ‘out:’ it is necessary to specify not the indoor conditions to be achieved but the magnitude of change that ought to prevail between the ‘in’ and ‘out.’ It will focus on specifying standards for ‘cool’ urban spaces that enhance greater tolerance of warm conditions indoors. Finally, the standards need to be dynamic, responding to changes in urban microclimate as well as regional and/or global changes to climate. It will do so by proposing an ‘intermediate zone of comfort’ for the urban outdoors as a third category, and point to research documenting the value of individual and combined voluntary behaviors to ameliorate comfort by using local, adaptive strategies.
    Such applications of adaptive strategies in the design of urban spaces will help tropical cities enhance their liveability in a time of extreme heat.
    Original languageEnglish
    Number of pages7
    Publication statusPublished - 2015

    Keywords

    • performance standard
    • tropical outdoors
    • climate change

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