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Thermal Comfort

Published on 
Andrew Harvey

The thermal comfort, that is comfort with ambient temperatures and microclimatic conditions, of children and their guardians is a major factor in how play spaces are used and experienced. A space’s microclimatic conditions (sun exposure, air movement, humidity and temperature) affect thermal comfort. It is a good idea to assess existing play spaces and plan future installations by addressing thermal comfort issues through management and design, especially given the impacts of climate change in recent years. The CSA Z614-20, due to be released shortly, will include a non-mandatory Annex on this subject. The following are some thoughts around the challenges covered in this annex and means of mitigating or eliminating them.

Solar Radiation

Challenge / Opportunity –

Direct exposure to UV and increased surface temperatures

Suggestions –

Place shade, shade trees in particular, to block south and southwest sun.

Equipment such as metal slides, should be placed under shade and facing north.

Rubber surfacing, as well as non-permeable surfaces like asphalt, should be shaded.

Locate sand play areas in direct sun and routinely rake as sunlight cleanses the sand of bacteria and molds.


Challenge / Opportunity –

Stagnant air on hot days and strong wind on cold days can diminish thermal comfort

Suggestion –

Allow prevailing winds to flow through in summertime with barriers and fences that have gaps of 89 mm or less.

In winter, block prevailing winter winds with plants and shelters.

Avoid placing sand play areas in windy locations.


Challenge / Opportunity –

Extreme temperatures reduce comfort, safe play and time spent in the space

Suggestion –

In summer, plants and shading can help cool spaces, while permeable surface materials like wood fibre can help reduce surface temperatures.

In winter, adequate winter clothing is the best means of managing comfort, but cold temperatures can also be mitigated by creating sunny spaces and using plants and shelters to reduce wind.

Relative humidity

Challenge / Opportunity –

Higher humidity reduces thermal comfort in both warm and cold weather.

Suggestion –

Strategically layout the space so as to allow prevailing winds to flow through the play area with barriers and fences that have gaps of 89 mm or less

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