Student collecting world-first comfort data

Victoria Toner draws people into her research with a tripod of GPS devices in Cashel Mall.
MONIQUE FORD/ Fairfax NZ

Victoria Toner draws people into her research with a tripod of GPS devices in Cashel Mall.

A masters student hopes to turn data collected in central Christchurch into world-first software that will help create sunny and sheltered courtyards in new buildings.

The predictions will help property developers, for example, make the most of courtyards and laneways, Victoria Toner said.

"Trying to mitigate wind, especially around hospitality areas, is vital," she said. "No-one in the world has done this before."

Existing techniques for predicting outdoor conditions are "very primitive", she said, and involved rules of thumb about building height, road width and prevailing winds.

Toner's project could result in more accurate and detailed predictions about comfort at a specific project before it is constructed.

Christchurch residents and visitors are asked to contribute data by taking a smartphone or computer tablet survey while in Cashel Mall near the Re:Start Mall. The survey at Comfortable-Christchurch has 20 multiple choice questions that take a few minutes to answer. Participants must have the GPS function on their devices activated.

Existing techniques merge participants' perceptions of the wind and air temperature with their GPS location and data from a sensitive weather station nearby to "quantify comfort".

Toner's project for a Victoria University Master of Building Science degree will turn that comfort data into predictions of where comfort is highest within a small area.

"I'm proving that my software works," she said. If it does, Toner would look to develop the technology further. "My aim is to have it used," she said.

Toner said she agreed to do a masters degree "only if I could contribute to Christchurch in a positive way". She works part-time at a Christchurch engineering firm while pursuing her comfort-prediction project about 40 hours a week.

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Toner will be collecting data in Cashel Mall until the end of the month.

Click here for more information and to takr the survey.

 - The Press

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