Indoor Environment Results Report
Scientific Review

1 . RYM SHOK and Indoor Environment Program

“Indoor Environment” Program is an ambitious research program co-ordinated by the Strategic Centre for Science, Technology and Innovation for Built Environment (RYM Oy). The program had 31 industrial partners and 13 research partners in the research consortium and the total research budget for both industrial research and academic research is 23.8 million euros. The duration of the program is from May 1, 2011 to March 30, 2015.

The aim of the Indoor Environment Program is to generate breakthrough knowledge of indoor environment. The main research questions of the program are as follows:

  1. How people perceive the indoor environment?
  2. How indoor environment supports the people’s well-being, productivity and learning ability?
  3. How to build zero energy houses with good and healthy indoor environment?
  4. How to improve actual indoor environment and energy efficiency as well as awareness of those in existing buildings?
  5. What is the business logic of superior indoor environment?

The Indoor Environment research is divided into four work packages (WP):

WP1 User-Centric Indoor Environment
WP2 Energy Efficient Control of Indoor Conditions
WP3 Business Logic on Knowledge Intensive Space Markets
WP4 Future Learning Environments

Health, design, energy efficiency, and valuation have been identified as the key research themes of indoor environment.

2. Academic Work Group

The present Academic Review is the second review focusing on publications published between Jan 1, 2014 and January 15, 2015. The previous review concerning published material of the Programme between May 1, 2011 and December 31, 2014 has been reported earlier (Reijula et. al 2014).

This time the RYM Oy Ltd invited the following multi-professional team as an Academic Work Group (AWG). AWG had four objectives:

  • Analyse novelty of research results
  • Identify the most potential results
  • Give recommendations to the program management on how to focus the research work in the final phase of the program
  • AWG’s work is expected to contribute to the creation of a new network for young researchers and their work in the thematic area for example through new ideas and facilitating links between researchers.

Following faculty scientists were invited to carry out the SECOND REVIEW process:

  • Professor Kari Reijula, MD, PhD, Professor, Finnish Institute of Occupational Health and Helsinki University, Finland (chair of the AWG)
  • Professor Göran Lindahl, MD, PhD, Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden
  • Professor Kwok Wai Tham, PhD, National University of Singapore, Singapore

3. Review process of the AWG

  • Invitation letter to the AWG members, February 2015
  • List of publications sent to the AWG, February 2015
  • Time frame for the AWG review: February – April, 2015
  • Publications were divided in five (5) groups:
    • Architecture, design
    • Economic aspects
    • Energy savings/sustainability
    • Quality of indoor air and environment
    • Technology, HVAC and construction

4. Review of the publications

4.1 Quantitative analysis

The outcome of scientific (peer-reviewed) articles and other publications from the four work packages (WP 1-4) is listed in Table 1.

Table 1. The number of published articles in four work packages of the RYM SHOK IE-Program (between May 1, 2011 and Oct 25, 2013).

Work package (WP) Peer-reviewed Articles Congress reports Professional journals, non peer-reviewed
WP 1 1 22 5
WP 2 9 5 0
WP 3 7 6 0
WP 4 14 18 0
TOTAL 30 44 5

 

4.2 Quality, relevance and novelty of published articles

The criteria for academic evaluation are often based on a mono-disciplinary approach and may therefore not be able to serve as the best method for the evaluation of as broad as the IE-Program. The pitfall of a traditional evaluation, by with the emphasis is focused on quantitative approach, is important to be aware of.

However, the final evaluation in an academic – but still valid – way should provide possibilities to highlight the potential of trans- and cross-disciplinary research which projects like the IE – Program have. In the context of built environment research, this is one of the key success factors: the balance between quantified and qualitative data produced and analyzed with both quantitative and qualitative research methods and measures. This is more than needed in the scientific forums of built environment.

Published articles in WP 1-4

The number of peer-reviewed articles during the present review period is higher (30) than during the previous review (first 2.5 years of the program). Research groups, which since the beginning of the IE Program, have had available established resources and facilities on this field of research, seem to have succeeded better than others. They have had the opportunity to apply their previous knowledge and resources more effectively in producing publications even in this new field of research. On the other hand, their project plans in the present IE- program must have been closely related to their previous work on the same field of expertise. Nevertheless, the objective of the present program was indeed something new and takes some time, new mindset and especially multi-professional approach in order to be accomplished.

The output of WP 1 (User-Centric Indoor Environment) comprises one (1) published peer-reviewed article, one (1) abstract and 22 conference papers. Of the 22 conference papers, nine (9) were disseminated in local conferences and written in Finnish. There were no patent nor technology filings. Although technical solutions are important, the aim of the IE Program emphasizes users’ needs and human perception. The broad spectrum of studies has given new insights to human perceptions and responses to indoor environment conditions and the technologies used to create these conditions. Whilst well-being has been addressed adequately, surprisingly, productivity seems to be given relatively little attention as only a few papers were associated with this theme.

The peer reviewed article relates to lighting and LED. Though titled a case study, the research is very well designed, implemented and comprehensive. It has very good measurements and rigorous statistical analysis, and captures human response, perceptions and preference in a very comprehensive way. The findings have clear implications for the use of LED and T5 lighting in offices.

Conference/Congress reports (22) of WP 1 cover some relevant fields of interest. There is substantial use of Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) in the modelling and simulation of jets flows, air flow patterns and distribution, entrainment and air leakage between zones (focusing on hospitals). Some of the CFD studies incorporated empirical measurements as validation. Another dominant technique was empirical measurements and these were applied to user perceptions, acceptance and health (SBS) outcomes, mainly in response to conditions generated from HVAC technologies and air distribution techniques. One study examined the exposure to semi volatile organic compounds and total volatile organic compounds between low energy and conventionally built houses. These studies provide directions for technological developments in HVAC technologies and their applications with particular focus on air distribution and air movement control.

In the report of 16 January 2014, it was observed that “Wide variation of scopes is covered in these papers. Thus, more carefully planned focus is needed in the last term of the Program. These papers cover both technical solutions and development of new action models but more importantly these articles cover also the effects of different factors in indoor environment in human physiology and perception.” The published outcomes have focused on HVAC technologies, air distribution and lighting and their impact on well-being. The translation rate of conference/congress papers to peer-reviewed publications remains low. It is encouraged that further efforts be directed towards a wider and more rigorous dissemination platform.

In WP 2 (Energy Efficient Control of Indoor Conditions), nine (9) peer-reviewed articles have been published. These have generated knowledge for guiding co-generation design, NZEB development, and indirect evaporative cooling developments; and articulated a vision for transformation of the construction industry towards sustainability. Five (5) papers are applications which cluster around the matching indices for onsite-energy developed earlier from work supported by RYM SHOK program. These are of very high quality and show promising knowledge and directions that guide the selection and combination of on-site cogeneration technologies with or without storage (electrical and thermal). The method is generic and there is “export” potential to the local and external communities/countries. One paper critically evaluates the metrics used for determining the achievement of Net Zero Energy Buildings (NZEB), and demonstrated that the design would be substantially influenced by the choice of the metric adopted. Another paper provides an excellent review covering the chronology, concept, systems and trends in indirect evaporative cooling. It alludes to the potential of IEC and identifies the market for its development and uptake. One paper examined the electrical efficiency between alternative current (AC) and direct current (DC) systems for office buildings, and pointed out the pragmatic consideration of matching the efficiency with existing hardware (lighting, HVAC, computers, etc…). On a different vein, a paper developed from a keynote address from SB2011 offers a visionary and refreshing prognosis and prescription for transforming the construction industry towards simultaneous achievement of professionalism and sustainability via performance orientation and value recognition as replacement of “cost-plus” approach.

In the report of 16 January 2014, it was recommended that “research should now be continued towards technical solutions which could be utilized and tested in real cases.” The applications of the matching indices and NZEB evaluation metrics have addressed this partially. Actual “hard” technologies have yet to surface.

Congress reports of the WP 2 (5) showed a diversity of fields of interest. They include theoretical human thermal modelling, implementation of ZEB in Nordic conditions, thermal activated building evaluation, IEQ solutions, and incorporating semantic network for facilities management. Each has potential development and it is encouraged that these be further pursued.

One (1) thesis at the MSc level (engineering) has been produced in WP 2.

In WP 3 (Business Logic on Knowledge Intensive Space Markets), seven (7) articles have been published in scientific journals. They focus on sustainability and green thinking (e.g. in facility management). Most of the papers were focused on review of literature. Data in articles is mainly based on questionnaire surveys and interviews. First paper discussed what green attributes tenants value in their apartments. The paper describes data collected using questionnaire survey in a pilot building. The paper shows that tenants begin to value green aspects related to the facilities. Second article encourages life cycle costs (LCC) and LC analysis to be performed in an early design phase. Third paper showed that “green certificate” increased on average the property value of 9%. This article is the first empirical paper on this specific topic. Fourth journal article describes first time in practice that the value of waiting to divest is an important element when planning of real estate fund divestment.

Congress reports (6) consisted articles. One of them showed that remote energy management could reduce energy consumption and costs. In one article real options analysis was suggested to have practical applications in managing risks in PPP projects. Third paper focused on evidence based design. This was a review of literature and presentation of evidence matrix for functional requirements and design parameters which would support learning. Fourth article focused on five space development projects at the university facilities. Paper suggested that campus managers should expand towards proactive facilitation and support of user-driven initiatives. Last article showed that the most visible value creation driver is risk management and risk taking capability of the project network.

In overall 14 articles have been published in scientific journals. Most of the published reports deal with the challenges of processes such as teaching, training, education and learning. Only a few of published papers describe the association between the processes and environment. This is a critical aspect of this WP. It is important to understand how to improve the processes of education in different levels of training and learning. However, there is only one year left in this Program to find the solution how to use this basic information in designing learning environments for the future. The resources should now be focused on those projects which do have relationship between the indoor environment and users and which most likely would produce solutions, action models and tools for the planning of future learning environments.

WP 4 (Future Learning Environments) shows a broad approach to indoor environment issues, it ranges from user interfaces with technical issues to perceptions and spatial narratives. The variety is impressive but also somewhat tempting and worrying. How should we tackle indoor environment as a whole when all of these small aspects does seem to be extremely important by themselves.  The answer lies, naturally, in understanding the variety of aspects that all contribute to a whole. Environment is not one entity.

The WP4 consist of 37 texts, 16 of them journal publications and 21 of them presented at conference or in other proceedings. All texts are well written and consistent with their focus. If categorized one can structure the texts in the following categories: 1) Construction related, 2) Pedagogical, learning and creation of self and 3) Processes and organization.

 

Each category is represented by different number of papers, the pedagogical category have the most. The construction related papers focus on producing indoor work environment and the impact of physical factors. One paper in this category introduces an urban perspective. The second category focuses on individual’s perception of learning environments both physically and socially. The process and organization related texts focus on measurement and how to understand the users´ activities.

5. Conclusion

The IE Program has been an excellent innovation and platform for a multi-professional approach to tackle challenges associated with indoor environment. Earlier and published research on indoor environment topic has been conducted mainly in separate segments of several fields of expertise. Due to this breakthrough innovations have not been occurred. In RYM SHOK IE-Program, the organizers (the Board of the RYM Oy Ltd) of the IE Program and TEKES have decided to have a significant change in the mind set in the field of construction sector: how to improve the quality of indoor environment for people who use the facilities but also to the processes which are carried out in these environments. The scope and objective of this program is focused on developing something new for the real estate and construction business but also to the users of the premises. Eventually this may lead to both an improvement in the capability of R&E and construction sector to compete in demanding markets but also to an increase in the quality of indoor environment. This in turn has an impact on the well-being of people and also productivity of companies which use these facilities.

The first review of the Program (reported on January 2014) was carried out one year before the program was closed. The review found out that the number of articles published in peer-review journals was limited which is understandable due to the short time of the projects. On the other hand, the number of congress reports was relatively high. Therefore, the first review emphasized the need to make sure that the data published in proceedings and congresses should be published also in scientific peer-review journals. This could ensure that new innovations finally lead to real breakthrough. The first review also encouraged the researchers to really focus their projects to such tasks which most likely lead to the results which have been written and promised to do in the objectives of the project.

According to the second review, the general quality of the material and methods used in the present articles is good. This emphasizes the role of senior researchers of projects to do their responsibility in writing along with younger colleagues all articles which can be published on these projects.

Finally, multi-professional team work has been important and necessary in accomplishing the tasks and objectives of this enthusiastic Program. The work packages did not have sufficient collaboration among each other. In all WPs there should have been an active use of expertise of different actors in the WP to build up the collaboration between different parties involved including research groups but also companies. Best results would have been achieved if this had been realized and solutions, action models and tools can be tested in real life situation. The real innovation of this program seems to be the novel thinking that technical solutions can benefit the users occupying the facilities. This can be recognized by an improved well-being and productivity which leads to increasing markets of this type of planning and construction. Finally, this all has to be documented in this Program. Otherwise no-one will believe this is true.

We conclude that:

  • The aim of the Indoor Environment Program was to generate breakthrough knowledge of indoor environment. Important new information was collected in IE Program especially for construction and real estate sector. Scientific research has not been in a major role in developing this field of industry. Multi-professional approach in projects was one of the most innovative decisions in conducting this program.
  • The number of published material in this program has been very good. According to the first and this review, IE Program has published 54 journal articles, 129 conference reports and 7 academic thesis. To indoor environment research and especially in construction and real estate business this is a remarkable outcome which we think has never occurred before in one program.
  • The number of original articles in scientific journals is limited compared to numerous conference reports. We expect that significant proportion of conference reports will eventually be published in scientific journals.
  • Research projects have well covered the main sectors of indoor environment relevant to construction and real estate business. During the second review process, especially WP 3 (Business Logic on Knowledge Intensive Space Markets) has improved in outcome.
  • Internationally the present IE Program has also been a pioneer: to our knowledge, research on this field has not been carried out at this magnitude earlier. Thus, it is important to use this novel information, new skills and expertise without delay in developing action models, tools and products.
  • TEKES and RYM Oy have shown wisdom, foresight and enthusiasm while launching IE Program which now has proven to be one of the first corner stones in research on this field of industry.

 

Kari Reijula                         Kwok Wai Tham          Göran Lindahl

Kari Reijula, Göran Lindahl and Kwok Wai Tham

Correspondence:

Kari Reijula, MD, PhD, Professor
Finnish Institute of Occupational Health and
Helsinki University
Topeliuksenkatu 41aA
FI-00250 HELSINKI
Finland

email: kari.reijula(at)ttl.fi
tel: 358-40-5502050