This is a guest article by By Prof. Richard de Dear and Dr. Christhina Candido
The University of Sydney has just opened an intriguing new facility, where the unsuspecting visitor could be forgiven for not realising they were inside a laboratory. The Indoor Environment Quality (IEQ) Laboratory is in fact a landmark strategic new piece of research infrastructure that relates specifically to Australian economic, cultural, architectural and indoor environmental conditions.
Entering the IEQ Lab, you might think you were in a regular office environment, but in fact in these two purpose-built rooms all the indoor environmental parameters can be precisely controlled, changed and measured. You won’t find lab-rats or students wired into machines here, in IEQ experiments the subjects are regular building occupants who go about their typical daily activities for usually a few hours each experiment, all the while registering their subjective impressions (quality ratings) on the IEQ Lab Comfort Questionnaire.
Right now the Lab chambers’ fit-out resemble grade-A commercial office spaces, but they can be transformed to suit the study, for example mimicking residential, industrial, retail, cinema/theatre, leisure facility, or even car, bus, plane and train interiors. So why would a university go to all this trouble to fake a regular room?
Indoor Environmental Quality Laboratory, opened in April 2012. C/o Sydney University
We know buildings account for up to 40% of energy end-use in developed economies, and regulatory and economic pressures are mounting to reduce the sector’s greenhouse gas emissions. The oil shocks of the 1970s taught us some key lessons in the building sector in relation to energy conservation and efficiency measures. We now know the ultimate success or failure of a building project; its long-term viability, energy efficiency, occupant and, ultimately, tenant satisfaction all depend upon the indoor environmental quality delivered to those inside. At the University of Sydney’s new IEQ facility, researchers can study how real people feel in a whole range of air-conditioned environments, that may be expensive to specify in a fully-blown commercial development, like variable air volume, underfloor-air distribution, or passive and active chilled-beams. The chambers will also allow experiments with naturally ventilated or mixed-mode environments – a key part of sustainable design and the move towards low-carbon buildings.
It makes sense to identify potential indoor environmental problems at the design stage and eliminate them before construction begins. It cuts out the guess-work and headaches resulting from building an entire structure, only to learn after occupants have moved in that systems are unacceptable! The University of Sydney’s IEQ Lab will help the whole building sector to deliver innovative and sustainable, low energy built environments where occupants’ expectations for quality are carefully balanced against our obligations to substantively address climate change.
The unique IEQ Lab is a place for Australia’s built environmental researchers and others in the building sector to understand all the elements that create ‘indoor environment’. Human comfort, productivity and health in the built environment are affected by a complex interplay of factors like humidity, air movement, ventilation rates, air quality, day-lighting, artificial lighting, sound and acoustics. By manipulating each of them in relation to the others the IEQ lab enables the actual causal mechanisms underlying occupant satisfaction (health or productivity) to be disentangled and understood.
The research outcomes from IEQ Lab will be directly relevant to Australian designers, building services engineers, property and facilities managers, and the regulatory bodies responsible for Australia’s built environments.
Located at the Faculty of Architecture, Design and Planning, at the IEQ Lab Architectural Science researchers can cooperate and engage with other disciplines. The lab represents a major investment by The University of Sydney in research infrastructure in line with its support of sustainable design and the indoor environmental quality research.
Banner image of Sydney University c/o Anyaka via creative commons licence
Sounds very interesting at this stage. Hard to judge from images above but can you advise on the specifications and finishes you adopted within this new facility. For instance: Have you adopted Green Star values for the respective materials used and the facility as now created.
The simple answer is yes. Paint and carpets were specified to be low VOC. The Lab has VOC sensors together with CO2, temperature, humidity and air flow sensors. A full BMS was specified.. The specifications on the building services covered flexibility to vary outside air requirements and the like. However the highlight of the facility is the ability to simulate "outdoor conditions" to reflect warmer or cooler climates.