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Comfort laboratory tackles indoor climate change

03 September, 2012

University of Sydney researchers will be looking for ways to slash one of the world's biggest single sources of energy consumption — the heating and cooling of buildings — at a state-of-the-art new laboratory.

Australia's first comfort laboratory, a research facility that will also improve homes and workplaces in Australia and internationally, will be opened today Friday 31 August by Greg Combet, Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency and Minister for Industry and Innovation.
"We now spend an average 90 per cent of our time indoors," Professor Richard de Dear, director of the laboratory, said. 
"By helping us understand how humans react to temperature, light and sound in an office or at home, this laboratory will let us improve the quality and comfort of that time."
"While there is a widespread belief that the 'optimal temperature' for human productivity is 21.5 degrees, a figure that has been enshrined in many tenancy contracts, there is no scientific basis to this belief."
"By understanding the most efficient way to provide comfort, we can also lower energy and other resource costs. 
"This has significant impacts on the sustainability of Australian businesses, drives productivity and increases our competitiveness in the low carbon future."
The laboratory consists of two rooms fitted with a multitude of sensors and controls, allowing researchers to control indoor conditions such as temperature, ventilation, air-flow and direction, acoustics and lighting level, direction and intensity. As these conditions change researchers will monitor occupants' impressions of comfort.
The comfort laboratory is the cornerstone of the University of Sydney's research into Indoor Environmental Quality — a field of architecture and design science that combines psychology, physiology, sustainability and architecture to investigate how sustainability and human experiences influence productivity at work and comfort at home.
The laboratory is located at the University of Sydney's Faculty of Architecture, Design and Planning. 
"The comfort laboratory will draw on the faculty's expertise in architecture, lighting, acoustics and sustainable design," Professor John Redmond, Dean of the faculty, said.  
"This facility presents a unique opportunity for Australian research and a competitive edge in the global market."
Professor de Dear is an internationally renowned expert in Indoor Environmental Quality and the world's most cited researcher on thermal comfort. His work forms the backbone of national and international energy efficiency and building standards.
Source: Sydney University

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