Outdoor Thermal Comfort effects on urban design

Constanta | Romania

As a young architect, born and raised in the harbor city Constanta I have been witnessing changes that transform not only the waterfront of the city's peninsula but the quality of public spaces on the quay and the urban life within. In the past the town and harbor have developed separately. Coast line erosion caused by climate change and the environmental impact of local industry have affected the city's natural display at the waterfront and therefore the quality of life in the city.

What defines the character of a city is the vibrancy of people on its streets and public spaces. Serving a multifunctional and multi-disciplinary nature, public spaces are becoming an urgent topic in the New Urban Agenda. The target 11.7 of the Sustainable Development Goals calls for universal access to safe, inclusive and accessible, green public spaces by 2030. The urban social life needs high availability of comfortable open spaces to raise the quality of living. By providing comfortable outdoor spaces the number of people and the time they spend outside increases. People experiencing life outside the buildings adapt their level of physical activity to the ambient thermal conditions. An outdoor space with high thermal comfort conditions contributes to a healthier environment, increases the intensity of activities in the neighbourhood and establishes social connections. At the same time it promotes local businesses and also has an impact on energy use and CO2 emissions.

The goal of the following research is to provide guidelines for improving social sustainability through creating comfortable outdoor spaces. The objective is to increase the thermal outdoor comfort for a public space in Constanta, Romania. The study is based on a bachelor project which proposed the redevelopment and integration of a previous industrial port area. A continuous public promenade animated by a mix of activities and outdoor spaces had been designed. The following research complements the project by rethinking the design in response to human’s thermal sensation under the influence of the atmospheric environment. A series of outdoor comfort strategies are investigated in order to reach an optimized urban design that provides good microclimate conditions for people engaged in outdoor activities.

In order to achieve a holistic design that leverages the given advantages of a specific location, the findings and conclusions of the research follow an iterative process. Specific parameters are taken into consideration: climatic conditions on site for representative periods of the year, properties of different ground materials, influence of solar and wind exposure, humidity level, metabolic rate according to the type of activity and the clothing factor according to the ambient parameters. The initial master plan design is tested and the massing, orientation and form are optimized in order to reach high outdoor comfort conditions. One highlighted conclusion is that each outdoor space requires site-specific and customized comfort strategies that consider geographical location as well as the built and climatic context. Early stage design should consider outdoor comfort. It is shown that outdoor thermal comfort is more effectively achieved with adapting massing orientation and shape of the urban layout at concept stage than with local interventions.

Mentor: Raphael Lafargue

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Gabriela Barbulescu – Romania

Gabriela Barbulescu – Romania

Gabriela did her Bachelor and Master Degree in Architecture at Ion Mincu University of Architecture and Urbanism in Bucharest. She worked as junior architect PROGRAPHIC Architecture Studio in Bucharest and as project architect for S&T Architecture Studio in Constanta.