A team of researchers at the University of Sydney has developed a ground-breaking technology that measures indoor environmental quality to improve building performance, energy efficiency and occupant experience.

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

The building sector faces the challenge to facilitate sustainability and reduce carbon footprint while achieving optimal indoor environmental conditions for occupants. Indoor environmental quality impacts human health, wellbeing and productivity.

Given that Australians spend more than 90 percent of their time indoors, it becomes imperative for building owners and facility managers to ensure healthy indoor spaces for occupants.

Professor Richard de Dear from the Sydney School of Architecture, Design and Planning, who leads the research team, is director of the Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ) Lab at the University. de Dear works with a team of researchers to shape how indoor environments are engineered, measured and managed.

With higher urban density being the trend across the world, the impact of buildings and urban precincts on both external and internal environments is critical, says de Dear. However, measuring IEQ has always presented a complex challenge and can also be expensive.

The IEQ Lab collaborated with building owners, policy makers and regulatory authorities to develop SAMBA, an innovative patented technology that monitor 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 technology uses 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.

Rapidly adopted by major building companies including Mirvac, Investa, AMP Capital, Charter Hall, Commonwealth Bank and Grosvenor Engineering, SAMBA was voted People’s Choice winner of the ‘Weapons of Mass Creation’ innovation award at Green Cities 2015, Australia’s premier sustainability conference for the built environment.

With SAMBA providing objective IEQ data, the IEQ Lab further developed a new tool to provide subjective measurement of indoor environmental quality.

Working with UTS and industry partners, the lab developed BOSSA (Building Occupant Survey System Australia), a new form of post-occupancy evaluation for buildings.

Both tools are now relied upon by building owners to operate their buildings more efficiently and provide better indoor spaces. de Dear describes SAMBA as the ‘eyes, ears, nose and skin’ of the building manager.

“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,” he said.

The IEQ Lab’s research is shaping policy and improving IEQ measures across the world. de Dear’s concept of ‘adaptive thermal comfort’, which defines the 19°C – 31°C range of indoor temperatures as acceptable to more than 80 per cent of building occupants, has demolished the popularly accepted 22°C office temperature norm.

This concept has influenced standards and building sustainability rating schemes, including the National Australian Built Environment Rating System, and others around the world.