Due to COVID-19, people have begun to spend more time indoors than before. However, most are unaware that indoor settings have a great impact on productivity and health. Ewha Voice met Professor Jihyun Park from the Department of Architecture, an indoor environmental qualities specialist.
Professor Park earned her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from Ewha Womans University’s Department of Architecture. After graduating from Ewha, she entered an architecture firm, where she started as an architectural designer and then was promoted to the position of director. However, as Park became interested in sustainable architecture, she decided to study at Carnegie Mellon University to specialize in the field of sustainable and human-centered built environment.
Simply put, sustainable architecture is a building that uses little energy. According to Park, there are two methods of making such architecture: improving the energy efficiency of the building or designing the building to benefit from the external environment. Designing buildings with climate, including wind, sun, temperature, and humidity can make them sustainable.
“Buildings use 40 percent of Earth’s energy,” Park said. “People think that the transportation and factories have the highest energy usage and carbon dioxide emissions, but in fact, buildings consume more energy and emit more carbon dioxide. Therefore, it is crucial not only to improve energy efficiency but also to reduce carbon dioxide emitted from buildings.”
However, caring solely about energy efficiency in architecture has limitations. For example, people feel uncomfortable if the cooling system does not operate in the middle of summer.
“Environmental design is about finding an optimal point between energy efficiency and people’s comfort level,” Park said. “Indoor environmental quality (IEQ) and building performance diagnostics, which I majored in, are closely related to this idea.”
Park has done more than 40 IEQ assessment projects. IEQ considers five qualities: indoor air, thermal, lighting, noise/acoustic, and spatial quality. For example, air quality is related to the density of carbon dioxide and the concentration of fine dust. These days, lighting quality has become more important because eye fatigue has increased as people spend a lot of time on electronic devices. Park says the combination of all five qualities is crucial.
To evaluate the IEQ of the building, Park collects surveys and data retrieved from sensors. Surveys investigate people’s satisfaction with space according to seven scales. Sensors are built in indoor settings to measure temperature, humidity, air quality, light levels, and acoustic quality.
Park mentioned that famous buildings such as the Bank of America Tower in New York regularly hold Post Occupancy Evaluations (POE) to show their high-quality indoor environment. POE is the process of analyzing how functional and comfortable a building is after people have used it, which aims to increase the productivity of workers.
Park’s company, ATLASEN, performs consultations for buildings to obtain POE certification. She conceived of her company while in Canada working on an IEQ project. Recognizing the shortage of people specializing in the field of IEQ and POE, she went on to found ATLASEN.
Park also teaches as an assistant professor in the Department of Architecture at Ewha’s ELTEC College of Engineering. She wanted to help students by combining her experiences in architectural design and building evaluation. She is currently leading the Humans, Environment, and Architecture Lab (to HEAL our planet).
“The field of environment-friendly construction and POE is still not well known in Korea, which is why I wanted to introduce this field to students,” Park said. “I also believe that Ewha students would work well in this field, so I became a professor to serve as a role model for them.”
Park also gave a piece of advice to students dreaming of starting their own business.
“No matter how good the idea is, it may already be on the market,” Park said. “This is why preliminary research is very important. Also, you need one last quality that makes your business outstanding: professionalism. So please do have professionalism before anything else.”