Thermal Experience and Perception of the Built Environment in Dutch Urban Squares

Sanda Lenzholzer & Nickie Y. van der Wulp

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Lenzholzer, S. & van der Wulp, N. Y. (1). Thermal Experience and Perception of the Built Environment in Dutch Urban Squares. Journal of Urban Design, 15(3), 375–401.

Thermal comfort is an important issue to be considered in the design of urban squares. This study hypothesized that thermal experience can be affected by the perception of spatial structures and materials, which can be influenced by urban design. Therefore, surveys were conducted in three Dutch squares (in Den Haag, Eindhoven and Groningen, respectively) to identify relationships between people’s long-term thermal experience and three factors: width of the square, spatial openness and appearance of materials. The results reveal that all three factors have an influence: Dutch people experience thermal discomfort when spaces are ‘too wide’, ‘too open’ and consist of ‘cold’ materials.

Main finding
This research finds that thermal comfort is such an important factor for sojourn quality in public spaces and studies the parameters that should be taken into account in order to facilitate climate-responsive design. The research notes that a square that is considered too wide, too open, or consisting of cold materials is generally considered thermally uncomfortable and the interpretation of distal cues by the people is often appropriate compared to microclimate reality in the space.

Description of method used in the article
Interviews with visitors to three Dutch squares about their long-term thermal comfort experience and spatial perception. Parallel with the interviews, the microclimate parameters that influence physiological thermal sensation were measured.

Of practical use

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Urban Design
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