New IEQ technology for workplace productivity

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A technology developed by the University of Sydney to more accurately measure Indoor Environment Quality (IEQ) in buildings to achieve healthier and more productive workplaces will be featured at Total Facilities 2015.

The technology known as SAMBA will be previewed at Total Facilities 2015. It will monitor aspects from thermal comfort, indoor air quality, humidity, air speed, light levels, acoustics and carbon dioxide concentrations via a suite of small sensors placed throughout buildings.

A world-first technology developed by the University of Sydney will soon be available to building and facility managers to help them more accurately measure Indoor Environment Quality (IEQ) in buildings to achieve healthier and more productive workplaces.

The compact, box-shaped device known as SAMBA is a highly sophisticated unit created over the last two years by researchers from the IEQ Lab within the Faculty of Architecture, Design and Planning.

SAMBA is designed to measure the key factors shown to have the greatest impact on an office worker’s health, comfort and productivity. The device is built on sensor technology that relays information about a building’s indoor environment back to a central computer for further analysis.

SAMBA has already clinched the ‘Weapons of Mass Creation’ innovation award at the Green Cities 2015 conference in Melbourne yesterday. It is also shortlisted for the Property Council of Australia’s 2015 Innovation & Excellence Awards to be announced in Sydney on 1 May.

The new technology is the brainchild of PhD student Tom Parkinson, who developed the idea with his brother and IEQ research assistant Alex Parkinson, under the leadership of Professor Richard de Dear (above), Head of Architectural Science at the University of Sydney.

Professor de Dear, a world-renowned expert in indoor climate and air quality who has been researching thermal comfort in buildings for the last 30 years, says that indoor environmental quality is just too important for companies to ignore today.

“In NSW, more than 90 per cent of office blocks and about 50 per cent of homes now have air-conditioning. Clearly the continuing transition towards an energy-efficient, low-carbon economy will have an impact on comfort levels within built environments. But what impact this will have on the people for whom buildings exist, is what we are interested in measuring.

“IEQ however, is a complex science. SAMBA will help to make sense of the science by giving companies the information or evidence to understand how efficiently and effectively their building is operating for the comfort of its people.”

According to Professor de Dear, SAMBA is designed to act as “a building’s eyes, ears, nose and skin”. Multiple units would ideally be placed in an office to capture the indoor environmental factors in different locations, which then gets fed back in real time to a central server for analysis.

“Until now the industry has been limited by technology and high costs to capture this information through one device. What we now have is a revolution in technology, which has been produced at a relatively low cost and will have high returns for companies and its employees,” he added.

With Australians spending 90 per cent of their time indoors and thermal comfort regularly topping lists of most common grievances within the office, SAMBA could change the property industry’s approach to IEQ.

Reports show there is a strong correlation between improved air quality and increased productivity and tenant satisfaction. “SAMBA technology will provide comprehensive IEQ analysis to building and facility managers enabling them to better understand the building environment and make changes to create healthier, more comfortable workplaces, ultimately leading to happier, more productive tenants,” Prof. de Dear said.

University of Sydney Senior Lecturer in Mechanical Services, Sustainability and Facilities Management, Ashak Nathwani, who will be demonstrating SAMBA at this year’s Total Facilities event, said current methods of assessing IEQ either provided a very small snap-shot of indoor environmental conditions or were cost-prohibitive.

“A snapshot assessment doesn’t provide sufficient sampling to give a fair representation of a building’s IEQ. Even the more expensive, scientific models are conducted at a single point in time and at only a couple of specific locations, providing limited data to the building managers,” Mr Nathwani said.

“SAMBA changes this by placing the devices at various points throughout a building (as close as possible to occupants) and continuously monitoring, allowing for real-time and in-depth reporting for building owners and facility managers.”

The low-cost sensors will wirelessly feed real-time data to a dashboard monitored by a team of indoor environment quality experts at the University of Sydney for analysis and provide advice on how to optimise the building’s IEQ.

A partnership program has just been launched with the property industry and several SAMBAs have been placed in buildings in Sydney and Melbourne for Pilot Field Evaluations, and the team will also work with building and facility managers, training them to interpret the IEQ Analytics dashboard.

Mr Nathwani said the technology was designed to help the property industry better understand buildings and productive workplaces in Australia.

“All data is presented alongside relevant IEQ standards and rating criteria, such as Green Star Performance and NABERS Indoor Environment, so owners and their tenants will better understand their building’s IEQ performance against industry standards,” Mr Nathwani said.

With testing so far indicating the accuracy and reliability of the sensors meets or exceeds industry standards, the new IEQ measurement technology is set to enable more accurate IEQ ratings and benchmarking within the property industry.

“SAMBA will help see IEQ ratings become as important as energy and sustainability ratings for building managers and owners in the near future,” Mr Nathwani said.

The University of Sydney will be demonstrating how SAMBA works for the first time in Sydney on the show floor at this year’s Total Facilities event running from 25 to 26 March at the Sydney Exhibition Centre, Glebe Island.

Total Facilities 2015 will feature a powerful combination of innovation and education, designed to reduce cost and improve performance of the nation’s facilities as well as connect more than 160 suppliers with 2,500 clients and end-users. For further information on the free event or to register your attendance visit www.totalfacilities.com.au

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