Thermal Comfort in Place

A special feature found in the children’s selections of favorite places was thermal comfort. Many respondents counted the quality of their favorite place directly or indirectly in relation to the thermal comfort which is “cool” or “cold” in the unique island climate. Regardless of location, whether it was an air-conditioned indoor space or appropriately shaded outdoor one, children never missed the quality of thermal comfort when they described the place.

For example, the hall of the School III, which is air-conditioned, was cited with the following descriptions: “Feels nice, as it is cold” and “Air! Air!” and “Feel-good energy.” Similar descriptions given for the library space at School I were: “It is comfortable; it is cold.” One girl at School II mentioned, “The room is cool, like a heaven.” Many respondents even related the air-conditioning of a room with a value of the room. Compared to other rooms, the cited room had relatively high scores in terms of overall value when it was air-conditioned.

If air-conditioning is the barometer for thermal comfort in indoor space, children’s sensitivity to the breeze can be another aspect related to thermal comfort in outdoor places. The majority of outdoor space quality is described with terms relating to physiological conditions such as “cool,” “breeze,” and “wind.” Even if microclimate is not a sole factor for the citation of a favorite place, it seems to be a critical factor, at least in Hawaii, as I observed in one school that the seats in the courtyard were never used when it is not shaded, while lots of children sat on a dirty shaded walkway under a canopy during recess. Even when the presence of the huge crown of a tree was not noted in a guide map, they described the quality of the place related to the cool shade created by the tree. When asked why they picked a particular place, one student answered “It is fresh,” omitting the mention of a huge tree in the middle of the play area in his drawing. He didn’t even mention the presence of the tree in the prompt asking him to list the physical items in that place.

Temperature, wind, and sun conditions are known to explain variations in the use of outdoor space. The presence of people in public space is considerably influenced by the microclimate. However, designers tend to pay more attention to aesthetics along with social environment and furnishing, regardless of the importance of user’s sensory factors.22 In a study of open space activity related to microclimate, Zacharias et al. reported that temperature, humidity, and sunlight account for the behavioral variance when a limited supply of the preferred environmental conditions is provided. Their study showed that people in outdoor spaces tend to accept slightly higher levels of crowdedness, and even the presence of smokers, which could be considered a stress in normal conditions, as long as the preferred thermal comfort is satisfied,23 verifying the importance of thermal comfort in preferences of place.

Children’s awareness of microclimate has different aspects compared to that of adults. Gifford’s concept of environmental numbness and environmental awareness to demonstrate users’ reactions to an environment explains the individual variation in terms of adaptation to the environmental condition of a place. Therefore, there might be individual differences in children’s sensory capacity to consider when we analyze the relation of thermal comfort to their attachment to a place. However, when it is obvious, as shown in the surveys of this research, it means thermal comfort is a critical factor in the creation of attachment to a place.

Environmental comfort is not only the result of architectural solutions but also a result of active participation among the users. Architectural detailing and the possibility of manipulating building elements is not enough to provide the ideal level of environmental comfort intended by professionals; participation of the users is essential.24

It is known that people in indoor spaces where environmental adjustment is allowed, in terms of manipulating building elements, can stand a wider scope of thermal discomfort than people in a place where no adjustment is possible. It means that users’ ability to adapt their behavior for thermal comfort needs to be considered in architectural design. In the study of schoolchildren’s behavior in relation to environmental comfort conditions, Bernardi and Kowaltowski reported that few interventions were observed regarding adjustments such as opening and closing doors or windows, or turning lights and ceiling fans on and off.25 It means that design for children’s place needs more attention paid to environmental comfort, as children who are helpless to control their environment don’t have the capacity to actively adapt to discomfort.The sensitivity to thermal comfort as described in the children’s survey on their favorite places obviously affects the attachment to particular places in school settings.

The Power of Overlapping Realms

When various realms are overlapped in one place, the preference of that particular place tends to increase. As shown in Tables 6.4—6.6, the spots with four to five overlapping realms have more respondents. For example, the functional realm where children can be satisfied with diverse affordances provided by the locus already has positive value regardless of its aesthetic value, as long as they can feel happy (personal aspects) in that place with friends (social aspects). When it has additional value such as air-conditioning or tree shade, which is found to be a very sensitive issue for children in Hawaii, or when it is aesthetically attractive (conceived realm), its preference increases. Special memories such as notable personal achievements or group participation related with that place help children acquire stronger attachment to it.

In School I, the basketball court, where lots of activities (functional realm, social aspects) such as games, classes, and performance events occur, and where students’ participation in place-making (personal aspects) are embedded, got the highest ranks in outdoor school space. The library, which ranked highest for indoors, has diverse options (functional realm) and air-conditioning (physical aspects) and is related to personal achievement (personal aspects).

At School II, the play area where flexible activities (functional realm) with friends (social aspects) are possible with the support of additional conveniences such as the water fountain, or the path to the field contributed to its citation as a favorite place. Another play area where aesthetic features (conceived realm) and tree shade (physical aspects) were available created happy feelings (personal aspects) for children, further contributing to its citation as a favorite place.

At School III, a beautiful garden (conceived realm) where students grew plants as part of the curriculum (functional realm) and participated in the formation of the place (personal aspects) helped create a sense of place for many children. The same is true for the swings, where they enjoyed the motion of flying (functional realm) and beautiful scenery (conceived realm) in a position where they felt secure and free (personal aspects), prompting special attachment to the spot. When they have a special memory such as the first experience on a swing (personal aspects) the attachment can be further strengthened. In the case of the library, where they enjoy a homely environment (conceived realm) with a specially considered element

TABLE 6.4 School I: Cited place, aspects of place

School I

Field

Basketball court

Playground

Library

PE room

Cafeteria

Classroom

Respondents

2

3

2

5

3

2

2

Functional realm

7

/

y

/

/

V

V

Conceived realm

Social aspects

J

/

/

/

■/

■/

Physical aspects

/

y

/

/

Personal aspects

J

/

/

/

■/

■/

TABLE 6.5 School II: Cited place, aspects of place

School II

Field

Play area A

Play area B

Peace

Carden

MPB

Classroom

Computer laboratory

Kitchen

Respondents

2

4

4

2

1

3

2

1

Functional realm

V

/

/

/

/

J

Conceived realm

/

y

Social aspects

■/

/

/

/

/

Physical aspects

/

/

y

J

Personal aspects

/

/

/

J

/

TABLE 6.6 School III: Cited place, aspects of place

School III

Courtyard

Carden

Swing

Field

Library

Hall

Class

Tree

House

Shop

Respondents

4

7

4

6

12

5

2

1

1

Functional realm

/

/

/

/

/

V

/

/

Conceived realm

/

/

/

/

/

/

Social aspects

/

/

/

■/

Physical aspects

/

/

/

/

/

/

/

Personal aspects

/

/

/

/

/

/

■/

/

/

of the environment, such as the skylight and air-conditioning (physical aspects), it brought personal satisfaction, not only in terms of achievement in reading and learning, but also comfort and coziness (personal aspects), creating a strong sense of place.The hall was another place of overlapping realms that includes enjoying a performance (functional aspects), achievement from participation in the performance (personal and social aspects), and exploration of the back stage (personal aspects) in a thermally comfortable condition (physical aspects).

TABLE 6.7 School I: Cited location and characteristics discussed (*personal experience)

School I

No. of citations

Diverse

function

Aesthetic value

Participation

Achievement

Thermal comfort

Library

5

V

V

V

Basketball court

3

V

J

V

PE room

3

V

Field

2

J

Playground

2

V

TABLE 6.8 School II: Cited location and characteristics discussed (*personal experience)

School II

No. of citations

Diverse function

Aesthetic value

Participation

Achievement

Thermal comfort

Play area A

4

J

(/)*

Play area B

4

J

J

J

Classroom

3

J

/

Field

3

J

Peace Garden

2

J

■/

TABLE 6.9 School III: Cited location and characteristics discussed (*personal experience)

School III

No. of citations

Diverse function

Aesthetic value

Participation

Achievement

Thermal comfort

Library

12

J

V

J

Garden

7

J

V

V

Field

6

J

V

J

Hall

5

J

V

V

V

Swing

4

J

V

(/)*

Courtyard

4

V

J

The power of overlapping realms in creating sense of place is obvious in the children’s description of their cited places, even when they overlap with special memory and personal achievement, which is hard to quantify (Tables 6.7-6.9).

 
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