Heterogeneity in outdoor comfort assessment in urban public spaces

You Peng, Tao Feng (Corresponding author), Harry J.P. Timmermans

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Abstract

The assessment of outdoor comfort can provide valuable insights into the quality of urban public spaces. Rational indices based on the heat-balance model have been extensively used for assessing thermal comfort in various outdoor environments for a long time. However, a growing body of literature is arguing the theoretical limitations of rational indices, including the lack of contextual considerations and the non-consideration of the active role of human being. Furthermore, the well-documented inconsistency in previous investigations suggests individuals' heterogeneous thermal expectations, preferences and adaptations typically depend on person-related and place-related contexts. Nevertheless, the study of heterogeneity in comfort assessment remains fragmentary. In an attempt to incorporate heterogeneity into a comprehensive conceptual framework of outdoor comfort, this study develops a latent class path model based on empirical data of 701 respondents from Eindhoven, the Netherlands. We identified two latent classes associated with different causal structures underlying the assessment of outdoor comfort. Meanwhile, the membership of latent classes is identified based on respondents' socio-demographic and behavioral covariates. The results show that, with respect to the influence on comfort assessment, the exogenous and endogenous variables are varying in effectiveness and strength between the two latent classes. Latent class 1 assesses the outdoor comfort mainly based on thermal sensation and expectations of thermal and wind conditions, whereas latent class 2 comprehensively considered both thermal and non-thermal influences, especially, the psychological acceptability and need satisfaction of outdoor activity. Our findings suggest that, in addition to the expanded framework of outdoor comfort study, understanding the heterogeneity in respondents' comfort perception is needed to comprehensively address the approaches to archive the comfortable urban public spaces in design, planning and management practices.
Original languageEnglish
Article number147941
Number of pages15
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Volume790
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 10 Oct 2021

Keywords

  • Outdoor comfort
  • Heterogeneity
  • Urban public space
  • Latent class path model

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