Fair Conditioning Understanding Heat Stress and Other Disparities in Urban Spaces – Fair Conditioning

Understanding Heat Stress and Other Disparities in Urban Spaces


Sociology & Building Economics


Thermal Comfort

Academic Year

1'st Year

Complexity Level


Content tags

Climate Justice


Informal Settlements


Thermal comfort

Activity Type

Role Play

Activity duration

2-4 hours


To sensitize students to thermal comfort injustice prevailing in informal settlements and to initiate thoughts on the role of architects in addressing this issue. 


Students realize the need to address injustice prevailing due to thermal discomfort in informal settlements and ponder on their role as architects in addressing this issue. 


Role play script


 Conceptual scripting of the role play (A conceptual story scripting keeping the thermal comfort and other injustices related to Informal housing. It is advisable to storyboard this play conceptually by a person who understands this issue or asked for external support, in order to bring out the much needed and crucial observations and realities out.)

Find an example script below. (Keep printouts of the script ready to make it available for the participants before the session.)

(You can use the script as it is and/or feel free to improvise it.)


Step 1: Students are told that they will be embarking on a role playing scenario. 

Step 2 : Professor states the number of characters in the play , including the narrator and invites students to volunteer. 

Step 3: Professor asks the participants to read the script and decide by themselves to  chose the characters they wish to play.

Step 3: Student volunteers are given 15 minutes to go through the script (A script that presents two scenarios- one scenario of an affluent household with the provision of an AC on a summer day and another of a household in an informal  settlement .The script will highlight the injustices endured by different household members the elderly, children, people involved in housework, etc with the narrator also sharing facts about air conditioning injustices,whenever applicable)  and prepare before they enact the play in the classroom.      

Step 4: Students enact the play 

Step 5: Students are asked to reflect on the play ( prompts: characters, setting, experiences) and pen down their thoughts based on what they enacted/witnessed 

Step 6: Students are invited to share what they’ve written. 

Step 7: Students  are asked to reflect on the following question : how would you situate your role as an individual &  architect in addressing this issue? 

Step 8: Students are invited to share their thoughts.  



Conceptual Script

Intention : 

  1. To demonstrate heat stress disparity in urban spaces
  1. To explicitly make students understand that the built environment consists of formal architecture, built by architects with legal rights to land but a major part of it consists of informal spaces which crop up due to societal and spatial circumstances. Since both cannot be observed in singularity, they should be studied parallelly to have a holistic understanding of the world.

(Multiple roles can be played by the same people across different scenes. However, it will help if the protagonist and the narrator stay the same across scenes.)

Characters and Roles : 

  1. Narrator
  2. Protagonist (feel free to name the character as you wish) 
  3. Protagonists child
  4. Protagonists husband
  5. Protagonists father-in-law
  6. Woman from affluent household
  7. Mother of woman from affluent household
  8. Child from affluent household 
  9. Grandfather from affluent household
  10. Women from the settlement ( 2 or more) 
  11. People whose homes are being demolished ( 2 or more)
  12. Police  ( 1 or more) 

Timespan : 20 mins 

Script : 

Scene 1 : 

It is 5 am on a summer morning and —-s   alarm buzzes, she forces herself to step away from the mat after a sleepless night. She looks around and sees her 10-year-old child, husband and father-in-law fast asleep in their tin roofed house. She sighs and walks sleepily through the narrow lanes of her settlement as she heads to the common toilet where she encounters other women reflecting the tiredness and sleepiness on her face. She reaches home by 5.45 am and heads to the cooking space of her one roomed house. She kneads  dough and sets it aside, chops vegetables and prepares some rice.  She notices her family rolling over due to the sound of her cooking. They, unlike her, have the luxury to laze around for another hour before they decide to get off the mat. As she finishes preparing lunch and commences preparing poha and tea for breakfast, she nudges her child and husband to wake up. Breakfast is served as soon as they  freshen up. She then goes and drops off her child at the bus stop, making sure to remind her husband to pack his lunch before he leaves for work and also purchase groceries on his way back home. It is 8.30 am by the time she gets back. Her husband has left for work and her father-in-law is up. She serves him breakfast and gulps down her own,  before heading for income-generation work. She works as a house help in 2 affluent households a kilometre away from where she lives. 

( Characters : Protagonist, husband, child, father-in-law, women at the common toilet )                                                                             

Scene 2 : 

—–  walks in the scorching heat, her head throbbing due to the sleepless night she’s had. She sighs with relief  when cool air greets her skin as she enters the false ceilinged, marble floored, air-conditioned home. The homeowner, a woman in her late 30s is wearing a warm full sleeved coat, attending a meeting on her laptop from a room 4 times the size of —-s home as her mother watches television in a hall 10 times the size of —- house. —- stares at the closed windows of this big house, thinking of her windowless house back home.  As she moves about cleaning the hall, —- listens empathetically to the lady who mutes the television to vent about how bored she is of living in her building where people barely greet each other and the feeling of claustrophobia she experiences due to the closed windows. After —- is complete with sweeping, mopping, and preparing food for the family, she takes her leave from the house around noon. 

( Characters : Protagonist,  homeowner, homeowners mother)                                                                                    

Scene 3 : 

As — steps out, the hot outdoor air greeting her air-conditioned skin makes her feel uneasy.  She walks to the bus stop a few metres away and waits with a few other people for the school bus to arrive. She picks up a child at the bus stop and escorts him to her second place of work. She asks him to freshen up and puts a sandwich  together  for him. She places the sandwich and a glass of water on a  table in front of the television. As she prepares lunch she watches the child and his grandfather as they watch television together in their air conditioned home, from the opening in their kitchen wall. She serves both of them food by 2 pm, cleans the house, and leaves by 3 pm.  

( Characters : Protagonist, child from affluent house, grandfather)        

Scene 4 : 

As she steps outside the building she can feel her skin burn as it acclimatises to the outdoor temperature.  She can sense the sun glaring down at her as she walks back home,  her eyes time and again scanning the affluent homes on the way, their ugly boxes throwing hot air as they cool the temperature in those gigantic homes. She hopes to have one of these in her home once she can afford to renovate and  also add another floor to her existing house structure. 

( Character : Protagonist) 

Scene 5 : 

When she reaches her settlement, she smiles at her father-in-law sitting under the shade of a peepal tree with his friends and passes by her kid swimming  with his friends in the canal that runs through the settlement. She reaches home around 3.30 pm and feels like she’s entering a furnace as she steps into her tin-sheeted house. The heat has killed her appetite and she doesn’t feel like increasing the heat by switching the gas on to heat the food. Her father-in-law and child had served themselves before they stepped out. She has the scorching house to herself. She sips some water, takes a bath, and sits at her doorstep. It’s too hot for her to rest indoors. She finds herself smiling as she chats for an hour with her friends – other women like her sitting at their doorsteps finding solace in each other’s company as they vent, gossip and joke around while escaping the indoor heat.

(Characters : Protagonist, women in the settlement, father in law, child) 

Scene 6 : 

By 5 pm all of them start heading to the municipal tap (water shortages are common during the summer) . —-s mind drifted to the water flowing uninhibitedly through the taps of the luxurious houses she worked in. As she was standing in the water line she heard women from the other end of the settlement discussing the demolition of homes like theirs that were located near the main road a few kilometres away. The road was to be expanded and there were whispers of a mall that was to be constructed there too. No one knew where the people of the demolished homes were relocated. As —— hears this she stares at the tips of the high rise buildings she can see from where she stands. She wonders if they will ever meet such a fate? 

( Characters : Protagonist, women in the water line, people whose homes are being demolished, police officers demolishing homes)       

Scene 7 : 

After she collects water she heads home. She washes and dries clothes and starts preparing dinner for the family. The hot air from the gas stove greets her skin like it did this morning. Sweat drips down her face as she cooks for her family. She smiles at her child when he returns home around 7 pm. She nudges him to sit and study. Her husband walks in by 8 pm with groceries. He freshens up and lies down a few feet away from the cooking stove as — continues preparing food. They speak to each other and she narrates the stories she heard from the people she encountered through the day. He shares that he had a hectic day with  multiple people coming in due to heat strokes and dehydration just like yesterday ( He works as a ward person at the local municipal hospital). Her father-in-law joins the conversation and starts reminiscing  and comparing the present  to the bearable  summer days about a decade ago when he moved from the village to live with —-s family.  The city was greener with fewer buildings and concrete, he says. As was customary during a conversation about the past,  the family starts talking about the days when — and her husband moved to the  city 15 years ago right after they were married. They started their journey in the city by working at construction sites for affluent housing and lived in a makeshift tin roofed and walled home they built for themselves, under a banyan tree that does not exist in the settlement anymore. After about a decade of struggle they had constructed their present home with brick walls and a tin roof just about 5 years ago. There were barely 100 families in the settlement when they moved here, and there are about  250 tin roofed houses and multiple narrow lanes to separate them now. As the people living in their settlement increased so did the highrises and flyovers and other structures made of concrete.   —–  serves food, as the family continues conversing about the past and the present.  Her husband and father-in-law head out for a walk and chat  with their friends after dinner. —  cleans up and asks her son to put bedding for the family before he heads out to play marbles with his friends. 

( Characters : Protagonist, husband, child, father-in-law)

Scene 8 : 

She completes her chores after which she sits at her doorstep with a few other women who are already there. They discuss a Childrens Fair that is to happen in a few days and plan to go together.  They sit for a while finding solace in each other’s company before heading inside their homes, echoing their wish to manage to get some sleep despite the heat and the power cuts as they bid each other goodnight.  — calls out to her son who is playing a few lanes away before she heads inside. He says it’s too hot inside and that he’ll come home when his father and grandad arrive. She is too exhausted to argue with him and lays her head on the pillow, staring at the roof and the ceiling fan. She can sense the heat that’s been trapped in the house circulating her, as her eyes start closing.  She’s not sure what time it is but she can hear the fan squeak and feels the air stop blowing. The electricity has conked off just like the night before. She feels sweat dripping down her clothes and mosquitoes humming near her ear. She is too tired to do anything about this. She feels the temperature drop at some point and hears her husband, son and father-in-law’s footsteps faintly. Just as she falls into a deep sleep, she hears her alarm buzz, and it is time for her to start another day. 

( Characters : Protagonist, husband, child, father-in-law, women at the settlement)

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