URBAN OASIS – People Places and Comfort

Great Public spaces are a measure of Livable Cities

In the last decade, India has seen a population explosion and its cities are experiencing unprecedented densities; for example, the density of New Delhi is now five times greater than the density of Frankfurt. This rate of urbanization puts a lot of pressures on our cities, including rising temperatures due to urban heat island effect. Total construction floor area in India is expected to increase by about 80% from 2010 to 2030, of which a large percentage will be “cooled floor area ”. Lack of space in the cities coupled with extreme climate has resulted in gentrification of urban fine-grain into isolated air-conditioned blocks. One example of such a typology is local markets being replaced with air-conditioned malls. Traditionally, the market square was also a congregational public space and cultural melting point in neighborhoods. In contrast, the malls of today with their air-conditioned environments are designed inward away from the public realm into an internal space that is only nominally used for gathering and is instead mainly used for passing through. This affects local economies, creates social barriers and consumes more energy and resources. Therefore, it is important to find strategies to enhance comfort level of outdoor spaces, to prolong their period of use and vitality as urban retreats; and thereby promote fine-grain typologies in the cities.

The purpose of this project is to research outdoor thermal comfort interaction factors and find appropriate strategies to increase outdoor pedestrian comfort in a tropical hot and humid climate, which prevails in 80% of India. The project demonstrates the application of the strategies in a test-bed plaza in an existing market in Nehru Place (New Delhi). An in-depth climate study is followed by a thorough site investigation and then mapping of programmatic needs on site for improved comfort. It also evaluates the moderating effects of different strategies towards optimizing outdoor thermal comfort. The universal thermal climate index (UTCI), which is derived from human heat balance considerations, is used for assessment of pedestrian thermal comfort, which determines the duration of use of outdoor spaces.

Outdoor thermal comfort is regulated by atmospheric environment, urban density and vegetation cover. This research presents a rationale for creating thermal comfort in outdoor spaces by programming with respect to the site. It also highlights the most effective microclimate enhancement approaches: use of cool pavements, shading elements, vegetation and tree canopy cover, elevated wind, and adiabatic cooling. General guidelines are prescribed for designing plazas in new developments in hot and humid climates, influenced by geometry, massing of surrounding buildings, and programming. However, it is important to bear in mind that context, surroundings and program are important determinants to optimize comfort at the fine-grain scale. The process also demonstrates how simulations can effectively influence design to produce more holistic solutions. Results from the research are relevant for different scales and typologies such as master-planning, campus design, IT parks, recreational parks, etc.

Project mentor: Felix Thumm

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Mahrooh Basar – India

Mahrooh Basar – India

Mahrooh Basar is an Indian architect with a MSc in Integrated Sustainable Design from the National University of Singapore and previously worked in Mumbai, Singapore and Delhi. She did her Bachelors In Architecture at the Manipal Institute of Technology in Karnataka.