BY: Alia Khairat

NOT ANOTHER SPACE SUIT: Fusing Technology & Indigenous Solutions To Facilitate Thermal Comfort

Abstract

Unseen, unheard and unconsidered, Qatar’s migrant worker population is building one of the richest countries in the world. They labor in Qatar’s high heat index1 climate, which is coincidently comparable to an Oriental sauna, wearing the most rudimentary of clothes. Working up to 60 hours a week, migrant workers fall victim to heat stress and dozens are hospitalized daily, starting as early as March and increasing in numbers during the peak months of June to August.

Since clothes are essentially a “second skin,” affecting the rate and efficiency with which heat is exchanged between the body and its surroundings, a concept garment was designed to improve thermal comfort. Low-tech, indigenous heat-management systems are combined with new technologies and knowledge of human physiology to design a two-layer suit that aims to optimize heat exchange mechanisms. The suit enhances radiation, convection and evaporation by having a snug-fitting inner wicking layer and a loose-cut outer shell, and by using strategically placed vents, perforations, and Phase Change Material (PCM) packs.

Using fiction as a medium of social commentary and critical design, the concept suit borrows from the superhero aesthetic to present the migrant worker in a new light. The suit denotes power, symbolizing the superhuman feat these workers perform and their true worth to the economy. Its aesthetic and function aim to improve worker morale and performance.

Mapping, scoping and primary and secondary qualitative and quantitative research have been used throughout the design process. This is in addition to an ethnographic study, field observations, material explorations, body storming and experimentation.

Download thesis submission