Shade research could help cool down pedestrians' routes

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An assistant professor at ASU created a mobile tool that measures mean radiant temperatures. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) An assistant professor at ASU created a mobile tool that measures mean radiant temperatures. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Ariane Middel is assistant research professor in Arizona State University's School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Ariane Middel is assistant research professor in Arizona State University's School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
The technology is something Middel already working with Phoenix and Tempe to put into practice, helping them with their tree planting programs to maximize shade. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) The technology is something Middel already working with Phoenix and Tempe to put into practice, helping them with their tree planting programs to maximize shade. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
TEMPE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -

One of the keys to surviving summer in the Valley is to find shade anytime you have to be outdoors and an effort is underway to help pedestrians do just that.

"My work is focused on making the desert environment more comfortable here in the summer," said Ariane Middel, Assistant Research Professor in Arizona State University's School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning.

Middel's latest project has her hunting for shade.

"Shade is the most important variable for your thermal comfort, it's even more important than air temperature or humidity or the type of clothing you're wearing," she said.

With that information in mind, she created a mobile tool that measures mean radiant temperatures. 

"That's the radiation that hits your body from all sides," said Middel.

For her research, she pulled the cart around ASU, the sensors collecting data along the way, calculating thermal comfort on a small scale. Then as part of her efforts, she created thermal comfort routing, or mapping the coolest routes on campus. 

"I sampled locations on grass, on an asphalt parking lot, under tree shade, under artificial shade so I tried to sample a lot of different environments," Middel said.

Now that she has the data the idea, is to put it to use making summertime in the Valley a little bit less miserable.

Middel's working on developing a thermal comfort model based off her research so that, "You don't have to measure mean radiant temperature everywhere, you can just model it and apply to the whole city," she said.

The technology is something she's already working with Phoenix and Tempe to put into practice, helping them with their tree planting programs to maximize shade.

"Choosing the right place for the tree is really important, and those measurements can help you assess where those locations are, where your trees give you the most benefit," said Middel.

Looking even further down the road, she wants to create a shade app for people. Right now she says its in the prototype phase.

"The app would route you along the most comfortable path, depending on how long you're willing to walk further," she said.

When it comes to shade on ASU's campus, Middel said her tool determined they could definitely use more shade, something the university is working on.

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