Air conditioning vent in ceiling

Shaping the future of indoor spaces

World first state-of-the-art monitoring station to improve indoor climate

Researchers at the University of Sydney are using creative and revolutionary technologies to balance sustainable building energy consumption alongside the promotion of public health, comfort and wellbeing.

One of the major dilemmas confronting the buildings sector in the 21st century is understanding how to facilitate sustainability and reduce our carbon footprint, while achieving optimal indoor environmental conditions. This is particularly significant, considering:

  • Australians spend more than 90% of their time indoors.
  • Clean air is strongly linked to human health.
  • Higher quality indoor environments, especially offices, encourage employee productivity.

Professor Richard de Dear from the Sydney School of Architecture, Design and Planning has spent more than 35 years developing an understanding of the wants and needs of building occupants and researching the performance of buildings. As Director of the Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ) Lab at the University –  the only laboratory of its kind in the southern hemisphere – he is working with a team of researchers to shape how indoor environments are engineered, measured and managed.

Measuring IEQ

Indoor environmental quality (IEQ) refers to the quality of a building’s environment, as experienced by its occupants, to foster health, wellbeing and productivity. It includes factors such as daylight and electric lighting, acoustics, thermal environment, indoor air quality and occupant comfort.

With a global trend towards high-density cities, Professor de Dear says the impact of buildings and urban precincts on both external and internal environments is critical.

Research shows the considerable impact that IEQ factors can have on productivity in the work place and building sustainability.
Professor de Dear

“However, measuring indoor environmental quality can be expensive and difficult,” says Professor de Dear. “Great progress has been made in monitoring building energy consumption over the last three decades, but IEQ measurement has posed a much more complex challenge.”

Introduce SAMBA.

Developed by the IEQ Lab – in collaboration with building owners, policy makers and regulatory authorities – SAMBA monitors indoor air quality, thermal comfort, acoustics and lighting levels in real-time and at multiple sample points across the floor-plate of office buildings.

The innovative and groundbreaking technology – patented in 2015 – integrates a suite of low-cost sensors with a web-based dashboard to provide IEQ data in a timely, actionable format that can be readily understood by building owners, tenants and facility operators.

SAMBA has been rapidly adopted by major building companies and owners. The tool was voted People’s Choice winner of the ‘Weapons of Mass Creation’ innovation award at the Green Cities 2015, Australia’s premier sustainability conference for the built environment.

IEQ measurements are both objective, and subjective. To address the latter, the IEQ Lab, in collaboration with UTS and industry partners, developed a new form of post-occupancy evaluation – BOSSA (Building Occupant Survey System Australia).

SAMBA and BOSSA have become essential tools for building owners to provide not only better buildings, but to operate them more efficiently and taking account occupant experience.

“At the end of the day, we have buildings for people,” says Professor de Dear. “SAMBA functions as the ‘eyes, ears, nose and skin’ of the building manager, in the space that their managing.”

“The intelligence SAMBA gives to us and partner organisations is providing rich intelligence about the indoor climate of Australian workplaces and the impact of high rises on a city’s carbon footprint.

“It offers the perfect opportunity to reset the barometer for healthy and productive workplaces inside buildings, balanced alongside sustainability goals.”

Impact extended

The influence of the IEQ Lab is shaping policy and improving IEQ measures nationally and beyond our shores.

Professor de Dear has been influential in debunking the ‘perfect office temperature myth’ – often claimed by air conditioning industries as being 22 degrees Celsius.

His concept of “adaptive thermal comfort”, which defines the range (19C – 31C) of indoor temperatures acceptable to more than 80% of building occupants, has influenced standards and building sustainability rating schemes, including the National Australian Built Environment Rating System, and others around the world.

To adapt the standard to Indian conditions, the researchers developed an Indian model of adaptive comfort (IMAC) with the CEPT University in India. The IMAC informed the 2016 National Building Code of India, in a major step towards reaching India’s goal to meet climate change commitments and provide national energy security.

“Many of us now spend our working lives almost exclusively inside office buildings,” said Professor de Dear. “We therefore need to be better managing indoor environmental factors for the sake of human health and wellbeing long term. Our IEQ research focuses on driving design innovation, optimising energy efficiency and maximising human wellbeing, performance and comfort".

Professor Richard de Dear
Professor Richard de Dear
Academic profile



Percentage of time Australians spend indoors

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