Indicators of Environmental Comfort Sensitive to Human Perception

Indicators of Environmental Comfort Sensitive to Human Perception

Igone Garcia (Tecnalia Research and Innovation, Spain), Karmele Herranz-Pascual (Tecnalia Research and Innovation, Spain), Itziar Aspuru (Tecnalia Research and Innovation, Spain), Laura Gutierrez (Tecnalia Research and Innovation, Spain), Juan Angel Acero (Tecnalia Research and Innovation, Spain) and Alvaro Santander (Tecnalia Research and Innovation, Spain)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-3637-6.ch022

Abstract

This chapter introduces environmental experience as a theoretical framework that describes people's perceptions of urban places. Its aim is to describe indicators that quantify how people perceive urban environmental conditions and evaluate its level of comfort. Factors considered in the environmental comfort assessment are soundscape, thermal comfort, and natural light quality, and indicators that quantify these factors are presented and discussed. Projects are also described where environmental comfort assessments have been incorporated into urban design or management strategies. Lastly, examples are presented of ICT tools that facilitate participative observation of public places. The chapter concludes with suggestions to raise awareness of the importance of perception-driven approaches in urban assessment and design. Main conclusion is that there is a need to build consensus on the methods to address subjectivity and to exchange experiences showing the potential of these studies.
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Introduction

This chapter proposes indicators and methodologies to evaluate environmental comfort in urban places and shows some notable examples of its applicability. The final objective is to present a battery of possibilities and flexible tools to integrate urban comfort in the urban design process considering two possible applications:

  • Diagnose the comfort of urban places to add value or define priorities for intervention or for action planning processes.

  • Incorporate criteria of comfort in the process of urban renewal or in the analysis of design alternatives.

The next section named Background justifies the need to consider the environmental experience as an element to be taken into account in public places. The following section, in Solutions, proposes two types of indicators that should be combined to make a holistic assessment of comfort: objective indicators of the physical feature and physical conditions of the place, and indicators obtained through questionnaires to assess the perception.

The section Projects Incorporating Environmental Comfort Assessment into Urban Design presents examples of how different combinations of these indicators have been applied in different projects. The methodologies applied in the studies shown are flexible enough to respond to the demands of each case study, with particular requirements on how integrate the environmental comfort analysis, considering the type of project and the moment of implementation. Therefore, the purpose of this section is to show different options of use, and visualization of the results, of the indicators, highlighting the general framework for the evaluation of environmental comfort.

In this context, with flexible indicators and methods for evaluating urban comfort, section ICT Tools Designed and Tested to Include People’s Perceptions in Urban Assessment shows that the use of ICT-based tools may be an adequate option to facilitate and systematize the evaluation. It should be noted that in the proposal presented in this chapter, the most relevant reason for using ICT-based tools is that it can facilitate enriching the evaluation with the direct observation of citizens and, especially, collecting their perception.

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Background

The aim of this section is to contextualise the chapter, highlighting the importance of analysing the dimension of comfort in urban places as an element that forms part of (and influences) the environmental experience of places and enables users to participate in their evaluation, enhancement and/or design. In short, environmental comfort should be incorporated into urban design processes because, when appropriately addressed, comfort contributes to the success of a space in terms of intensity of use and pleasantness.

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