Nikolopoulou, M., N. Baker, and K. Steemers. “Thermal Comfort in Outdoor Urban Spaces: Understanding the Human Parameter.” Solar Energy 70.3 (2001): 227-35. JSTOR. Web. 21 Sept. 2010.
This article argues that a purely physiological approach to understanding human thermal comfort in outdoor urban spaces is inadequate, and that a psychological approach must also be taken. After taking data from 1431 interview subjects over the spring, summer and winter of 1997, the team of researchers came to many conclusions.
The problem of thermal comfort outdoors needs to be recognized as being a function of more than just the temperature and clothing levels of people, but also of the built environment. “Problems created by importing architectural vocabulary without adapting it for the local climate” (p. 227) are on the rise with international design and globalization of culture.
The study also showed that people in hot climates prefer to be cool, and that people in cold climates like to be warm. This was no surprise.
The most interesting suggestion brought forth by this research is the idea that memory plays a significant role in the thermal experience. Not only the history of one’s thermal life but of the recent past, the last year, month, day, and even the previous environment that someone came from such as a chilly office. This obviously affects the clothing choices that a person makes when starting the day, but also the mental preparedness of the individual. Expectation is a factor in increasing thermal comfort outdoors, I wonder if being able to see the weather from where one sits would have an effect on them in changing their indoor experience or desensitizing them for when they finally do get outside?
Once outside, adaptation to the thermal environment occurs, and comfort levels change from the initial reception. The activity of people watching or other environmental stimulation can also change the experience one has outdoors, affecting their thermal history and changing their thermal perception.
This article has brought forth the idea that sensing heat is more than just a physical process, it conjures memory and can deeply affect people on a more than just physical level. In my study of the thermal bounds of radiant heat objects I wonder if memory plays a role? I wonder how far back our thermal history goes, is it genealogical? Does our experience of sitting next to a hot radiator bring to mind the sensation of sitting next to a fire?