1.18 - Thermal Retrofitting of Public Spaces in Compact Urban Areas. A Bioclimatic Approach

Project Description

Conspicuous amongst the impacts of climate change, the substantial increase in temperature extremes is quite relevant for urban areas. This phenomenon can hinder people's welfare and social interaction in public spaces, particularly in regions with warm and hot summers. The creation of successful pedestrian public spaces should therefore account with both the displacement of cars and provision of conditions for outdoor thermal comfort. It is vital for urban areas to possess the necessary conditions for urban populations to cope with the impacts of climate change and for public spaces to keep fulfilling their privileged role as stages of social interaction. Bioclimatic urban design can help addressing this challenge by taking the microclimate of outdoor public spaces as a true design commitment.

The challenge is particularly important in compact urban areas since in these areas the built environment is already defined and, thereby, structural changes are not as likely to happen. Retrofitting interventions can thus be useful in these areas. Retrofitting a public space through 'cool' materials and vegetation on a bioclimatic perspective can significantly influence its microclimate without entailing structural changes. The combination of these two morphologic elements can reduce the amount of direct solar radiation striking the surfaces of a space and the increase the heat losses taking place at the ground level, where pedestrian circulation is held. However, there is a gap between theory and practice on this subject.

This research is developed around the hypothesis that a methodology supporting the development of thermal retrofitting proposals for public spaces in compact urban areas based on 'cool' materials and vegetation, on a bioclimatic perspective, can help becoming this knowledge more operational. This research started by identifying a problem, defining the research question and associated hypothesis, and by undertaking a literature review. The hypothesis was subsequently built and tested through a case study; the development of a methodology for the thermal retrofitting of public spaces in compact urban areas; and the validation of the proposed methodology. The research finishes concluding about the capacity of the proposed methodology to contribute to the know-how on the adaptation of the built environment to the substantial increase in temperature extremes brought by climate change, and to the consolidation of bioclimatic urban design practice.

Research Team
  • Prof. Fernando Brandão Alves (supervisor)
  • Prof. Joanne Patterson (co-supervisor) - Architectural Science Group / Welsh School of Architecture
  • João Granadeiro Cortesão
Financial Support
  • FCT - SFRH/BD/44417/2008
Stage of Progress
  • Concluded in 2013