The 2021 Regions in Recovery Festival (#RinR21) was hosted by the Regional Studies Association and ran between 2nd-18th June 2021. In over 2.5 weeks the Festival featured 458 papers and 124 sessions. The Festival ran as a multi-partner event and brought together the global regional studies and regional science community. With over 1,250 participants representing 71 countries, the #RinR21 Festival represented a major event and celebration in regional research, policy and development.
On Thursday 17th June 2021, Simon Marvin participated in the NOIR Workshop on Infrastructural Times: Flows that sought to bring together new and original research that critically examined the role of time and temporality in knowledge in studies and produced and informed decision-making on urban and regional infrastructure.
Simon presented on “Engineering the Urban Climate: Outdoor Cooling as a Spatial-Thermal fix”. Under conditions of accelerating climate change and continued urbanisation, sustaining everyday urban life in many parts of the world would increasingly depend on the capacity to live with heat extremes. Measures such as urban greening and passive design solutions might offer half of the thermal amelioration required. There would therefore be a need to invest in active, controllable, and targeted outdoor cooling systems – water misting, high-capacity fans, and district cooling – if heat-stressed cities are to function effectively. The capacity to control heat was becoming a strategic imperative for urban authorities, so that outdoor urban space could be maintained as a safe, reliable and liveable environment for humans, nature and essential infrastructure. A growing outdoor cooling sector was now offering solutions as advances in microclimatic expertise, digital weather monitoring, and novel cooling systems reflect the growing importance of urban thermal management. These socio-technical systems reflected a new logic of ‘engineering’ the urban climate, to produce technically mediated ‘perfect weather’ all-year-round. Yet thermal comfort in outdoor settings had received very little critical attention, partly because the application was novel, but also because control of many outdoor spaces was not so clearly defined as the indoors. Using examples from the Asian region the paper examined why and where urban outdoor cooling was emerging and who was driving its development, how technologies were being used to engineer outdoor thermal comfort and what were the wider societal implications of outdoor cooling for the rhythms of urban life it facilitates (or impedes)?