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Beating the heat

Outdoor design professionals working in the region have one major problem: for much of the year, people avoid spending time outdoors.

COMMENT, Design

Outdoor design professionals working in the Middle East have one major problem: for much of the year, people will do almost anything to avoid spending time outdoors.

No matter how carefully planned and elegantly executed the design of an exterior area, and no matter how much investment has been put into the creation of said space, the risk is that it will lie empty as the intended users opt instead to spend time in cooler environments indoors.

For developers, one solution, of course, is to create great interior environments as Dubai has done with aplomb in its various shopping malls.

But with the focus on development increasingly shifting to the outdoor space - finding ways to beat the heat is set to become more and more of an issue.

From gardens to golf courses, from theme parks to promenades, a huge amount of investment is being poured into the outdoor space in the region.

This is all well and good for the eight or so months of the year when the climate is pleasant, but how are these projects going to work during the rest of the year when temperatures go above the comfort threshold?

Is the plan for them to work on a seasonal basis - with shutdown periods during the hotter months - or to operate on a year-round use instead? And if year-round, how are they going to manage the heat?

Inevitably, it looks set to fall to the designer to make outdoor investments work by incorporating climate control strategies at the concept stages.

And while you can't change the climate, as our report this month shows, there are a number of things that can be done to temper the heat and to prolong use of the outdoor space.

Who knows, perhaps one day, exterior spaces may even be able to lure people from the malls.

Michele Howe is the deputy editor of Commercial Outdoor Design.

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