Technology devised in Christchurch to help improve comfort in outdoor urban settings, is now being used in the Middle East for the exact opposite reason from that originally intended.
The use? To keep people cool in the scorching desert environment, rather than warm in New Zealand’s more temperate climate.
Engineering firm Aurecon has created an urban comfort assessment model where they are able to predict the combined 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.
They have already undertaken urban comfort assessments in Christchurch of The Terrace entertainment and office development on Oxford Terrace and the new central Bus Interchange, and are now commissioned to undertake a study on a proposed shopping complex in Abu Dhabi.
Mike Green, Engineering Meteorologist for Aurecon, says that there was a certain irony in that the modelling tool developed to identify and mitigate against cold areas, was now being used on the other side of the world for the opposite reason.
“Spurred by the opportunities with the redevelopment of Christchurch following the earthquakes, 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," he says.
“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.
“When we were creating this model we were focusing more on protecting people from the cool winds often experienced in New Zealand, rather than the searing 50ºC plus temperatures experienced in the Middle East and the application of our software in relation to an outdoor shopping centre."
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 38ºC rather than 50ºC.
The shopping centre is designed to create an outdoor, open-to-the-sky retail/dining destination, replicating the “souk” atmosphere in a modern aspect - it will accommodate a total retail area of around 30,000m2 and will be divided into three modules of approximately 10,000m2.