New PhD project seeks to close the gap between perceived and measured indoor environmental quality in hospitals

On Oct 1st, Sara Willems starts a PhD project that seeks to close the gap between how indoor environmental quality is perceived and how it is measured. The 4-year project is supported by a PhD fellowship of the FWO and supervised by Ann Heylighen (KU Leuven, RxD) and Dirk Saelens (KU Leuven, Building Physics).

Buildings’ indoor environmental quality (IEQ) affects occupants’ comfort and well-being. In hospitals this is known to impact on patients’ average length of stay. However, even when buildings achieve the target IEQ values, occupants are often not satisfied. This discrepancy can be attributed to the (a) often separate treatment of different IEQ parameters, while human experience is multi-sensory; (b) lack of attention for the continuous changes of indoor conditions in time and space; and (c) limited insight into interconnections between physical quantities, wellbeing and building features.

Therefore this project aims to gain insight into how people’s active and multi-sensory perception of the indoor environment relates to continuously varying IEQ parameters, and what this implies for architectural and engineering design and IEQ research. To this end, Sara will combine sensor measurements, giving objective information about the indoor environment, with ethnographic material about patients’ subjective experiences. How the findings can be transposed to design practice will be discussed with architects and engineers.

This will cast new light on research in the areas of IEQ, healing environments and the sensory experience of architecture and current design practices, especially in the context of hospital design. In this way the research seeks to contribute to a more comfortable and healthy indoor environment.

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