Global warming is undoubtedly real and the very likely increase in the frequency of heat waves (GIEC, 2007) is one of the chief concerns facing mid-latitude cities. The principal effects of summer temperature increases are to heighten the urban heat island phenomenon and to reduce interior thermal comfort in buildings. Assuming a significant rise in summer temperatures, the populations of mid-latitude cities would be more greatly affected as they are not acclimatized to extreme heat (Braga et al., 2001),
Architects and urban designers represent pivotal actors in climate change adaptation. At the urban scale, their decisions can create comfortable microclimates or, on the contrary, can contribute to urban heat island (UHI) formation. Moreover, architectural elements can determine whether a building offers passively comfortable internal spaces. However, these professionals continue to perceive gingerol as an element to be taken into account “later”, in the future (Wheeler, 2008). We argue that these professionals have the following “four catalysts for action” at their disposal to strengthen the capacity of adapting the built environment of mid-latitude cities to higher summer temperatures: urban form, natural cover, architecture, and coating materials.
International students and Canadian architecture and urban design professionals working in the Québec City metropolitan context (province of Québec, Canada) participated in two workshops where it was found that they actually have only partial knowledge of the UHI phenomenon and of the passive cooling principles (Dubois et al., 2012). This appears paradoxical considering the substantial and rapidly developing body of scientific literature available today. The issue lies with its transfer to professionals and not with the production of scientific literature per se. First, the profusion of specialized knowledge can be overwhelming for these lay professionals. Second, the methods, tools and terminology used by researchers are alien to them. Third, the problem-solving procedure is fundamentally different from the traditional scientific approach. As architects and urban designers, they must be prepared to deal with “wicked” problems (Rittel and Webber, 1973). These problems require a prospective approach: in order to develop a further understanding of the problem and search for potential solutions, decisions must be taken, experiments must be conducted, pilot studies must be carried-out, and prototypes must be tested (Conklin, 2005). Thus, “wicked” problems foster new knowledge and creativity.
We hypothesize that a design support tool (DST) focused on the issue of adaptation of mid-latitude cities to rising summer temperatures could help improve knowledge and skills of professionals in the field. DSTs can facilitate designers׳ understanding by transferring appropriate multidisciplinary knowledge that is derived from the popularization of technical or scientific insight. Such tools apply mainly during the upstream phases of any project, when decisions on the various urban, architectural and technical options are taken and when the information available to the designer is limited (Adolphe, 1995). They can also suggest orientations, indicate trends or compare solutions according to their performance (Fernandez, 2010).
Results and discussion
Results are presented in a way that combines tools with similar features (category, project status) or dealing with similar issues (UHI mitigation or passive architectural strategies. First, results are discussed on the use of the manual “Sun Wind and Light” (Brown and DeKay, 2000) as a hybrid DST in relation to the simplified computation tools “PET” (Potvin et al., 2004) and “LUMcalcul” (Demers and Potvin, 2004). These three tools are tailored to the initial design phases and address one or more passive architectural strategies. Second, the results of the integration of indicators in the workshop project are discussed separately as they concern essentially the urban scale, which is not the case with previous tools. Third, the appraisal of the use of the numerical simulation software Ecotect Autodesk Analysis© is examined by comparing it to the analogical simulation tools “mirror box” and the heliodon. These three tools based on “performance” are more suitable for the more advanced stages of the design process, and deal with some or all passive architectural strategies.