Laura Palmer, a life-size mannequin named after the fictional character from the '90s American cult TV series Twin Peaks, is the latest addition to the research team in the University's Indoor Environmental Quality Lab (IEQ).
The sophisticated thermal research tool arrived in Australia from Denmark late last year, transported in a box with her body in parts and individually wrapped in plastic, before she was assembled and given her new name, Laura Palmer.
She joins the world-leading IEQ lab in the University’s School of Architecture, Design and Planning - the only research lab in indoor climate and air quality in the southern hemisphere, led by Professor Richard de Dear.
Professor de Dear, a world expert on human thermal comfort, said: “Given males and females dress differently, one of the perennial problems of the indoor office environment is managing thermal comfort for both men and women. The thermal mannequin is how we can quantify the effects of clothing differences between the sexes. Establishing the optimum indoor temperature for human comfort and productivity is one of the core challenges for building and facilities managers.”
Laura Palmer will play an instrumental role in the IEQ Lab’s research, dedicated to improving the quality and comfort of indoor office and other built environments where we spend more than 90 per cent of our daily lives today.
The mannequin is wired to mimic a human body’s skin temperature and to measure how it alters in response to indoor environmental factors such as naturally-ventilated and air-conditioned buildings, and clothing insulation.
‘Smart buildings’ along with a growing interest in building occupant ‘wellness’ and providing a sustainable workplace, all the while minimising the building’s environmental impacts, are the ongoing challenges of the 21st century office.
For more than 35 years, Professor de Dear has dedicated his research to defining what people want and need from buildings and assessing building performance to meet the needs of occupants for whom they were built.
“Ascertaining thermal pleasure may not be seen as a priority for employers. However, an optimal, stimulating thermal environment in an office can be transformative for staff productivity and wellbeing, and the overall operation of a building,” said Professor de Dear.
Professor Richard de Dear is the keynote speaker at the 2017 Total Facilities conference in Sydney from 29-30 March. Professor de Dear will be joined by Laura Palmer at the two-day industry event focused on innovative solutions and future strategies to achieve greater efficiency, sustainability and productivity in the built environment.