The University of Sydney is opening a new laboratory at the end of the week with an eye to researching the impact of indoor environment quality on occupant comfort and productivity.
Focusing on sustainable outcomes, The Indoor Environment Quality (IEQ) lab will examine factors such as temperature, ventilation, lighting and acoustics within two specially-designed rooms that can be adapted to replicate office, industrial, residential, retail, leisure and vehicle interiors.
The research will be collaborative in nature, with experts in thermal perception, acoustics, environmental psychology, lighting and sustainable design working alongside IEQ lab head professor Richard De Dear, whose adaptive comfort model is part of the Green Building Council of Australia’s Green Star rating protocols. The IEQ team has already attracted applicants from as far afield as Japan, Brazil, Chile, Malaysia, China, India and Korea.
The lab’s aim is to widen considerations beyond a building’s impact on the environment and resource efficiency and influence green indoor environment technologies based on a building’s occupants’ comfort, productivity and related factors.
“Most of a building’s operational energy consumption, and by extension, greenhouse gas emissions, are directly related to the provision of IEQ by energy-intensive building services like cooling, heating, ventilation and lighting,” De Dear said.
He cites indoor lighting as one example, noting that the efficiency of a building’s lights can be improved by using LED technology, but points out that there are other factors that must also be taken into consideration.
“Lighting that renders our complexion with a cadaverous pallor in the bathroom mirror is extremely unlikely to meet with market acceptance, regardless of its energy efficiency,” De Dear says. “Quantifying market acceptability of lighting qualities in typical workaday scenarios is exactly where our IEQ Lab can help.”
Similarly, heating and cooling options abound, with various new and greener options gaining in popularity, but De Dear notes that, “their acceptance and penetration in the market-place depends very much on the quality of thermal comfort they can deliver to building occupants.”
Based on this research, the IEQ lab aims to create benchmarks for the indoor environment which will enable designers and engineers to make evidence-based decisions early on to avoid later retrofits and save considerable energy and greenhouse gas emissions.