When you are feeling cold, you want to warm up. When you are hot, you want to cool down. New urban comfort technology devised by engineers from Aurecon provides a solution to both scenarios.

Identifying and creating areas that people find comfortable is good business sense. People are more likely to be more attracted to that particular area and will stay longer. If you are in retail and hospitality, you want to know where these places are or how to create them. More people, staying longer, generally means more turnover, more profit, greater success.

The innovative urban comfort assessment model predicts the cumulative influence of wind, sun and shade, sun angle, solar radiation, temperature and humidity in outdoor areas in and around urban precincts to give an overall assessment of comfort across an area.

The technology was borne out of the opportunities for Christchurch’s rebuilding following the earthquakes a few years ago and was originally intended to keep people warm in New Zealand’s temperate climate.

“We created an urban comfort model that could help in the design of a building or larger precincts and its surrounding areas to indicate the level of comfort people would experience when visiting that area,” said Mike Green, engineering meteorologist at Aurecon. “It gave us the ability to quantify changes in comfort levels should mitigation techniques, such as changing the angle of the building, or if different types of landscape architecture is undertaken.”

Green said the technology was initially devised to protect people from chilly winds in New Zealand, but the application has quickly extended to finding urban comfort solutions for outdoor shopping centres in the searing 50 degree heat experienced in the Middle East.

Urban Comfort Index

Urban comfort index

The brief from the Middle East developers to Aurecon was to know whether, by introducing shading and mechanical cooling, they could make outdoor conditions comfortable during the hottest times of the year, which meant having conditions that felt more like 38º Celsius rather than 50º Celsius.

The solution for the 30,000 square metre retail destination is a mixture of building angle and positioning, landscaping considerations supported by mechanical solutions such as retractable shading, and chilled waterfalls and walls.

The pedestrian streets in the mall are oriented in a north/south direction to maximise shading from buildings, the piazzas are in a rhombus or diamond shape also to achieve maximum shading, and retractable shading systems are needed above each piazza to provide the needed amount of sun protection in the hot season.

“We have found that by incorporating chilled water fountains we could get lower temperatures without the need to worry about condensation. The fountain will be chilled to around 7ºC and will provide a film of water over the face of a perspex waterfall,” said mechanical engineer David Haylock.

“The water will provide a high level of radiant cooling as well as evaporative and convective cooling.”

Perspex waterfall solution

Perspex waterfall solution

The pedestrian main streets, oriented in their north/south direction, open on to the large piazzas. Cafes and restaurants can be extended to the exterior sidewalks, allowing outdoor dining with scenic views to the chilled water features that will provide a sensation of coolness and tranquility to these places.