Indoor Environment

DECI's Indoor Environment trans-disciplinary research initiative co-evolved out of the brainstorming efforts of over twenty faculty members from six distinct Drexel University colleges and schools, and represents the integrated efforts of over a dozen diverse disciplines in addressing three interconnected research areas that affect the design of the built environment:

  • human factors (psychology, ecology, medicine, chronobiology, policy, and sociology),
  • human-building interaction (information systems, design, analysis, and communication)
  • building systems (environmental, architectural, and materials engineering, industrial ecology, and environmental health)

Teams representing these areas work together as a cohesive organism to discover fundamental knowledge that will define the human-building ecosystem.

The IE research team has evolved out of several recent successful synergistic funded research projects for interior building systems. A major research thrust has been the effects of daylight on vision, visual acuity, productivity, health, and wellbeing, involving researchers Ellis, Wen, Handly, and McEachron from the Colleges of Media Arts & Design, Engineering, Medicine and the School of Biomedical Engineering respectively. Energy use and its conservation in buildings that house data centers are presently under investigation by Ellis and Spatari. Ellis and Wen have been working on sustainable interior building systems and reconfigurable interior partitions with industry partner Haworth. Two of these projects have industry partners and have been funded by the Green Building Alliance. IE research will advance sustainable building practices and encourage market transformation in Indoor Environmental Quality, one of the U.S. Green Building Council's five categories of environmental performance.

The researchers involved in the IE initiative aim to develop environmental control systems which allow indoor environments and occupants to dynamically co-adapt to each other in order to enhance human wellbeing and productivity while simultaneously optimizing energy efficiency in sustainable buildings. Central to the research is the idea that humans, their technology and the interior environment form a single, integrated complex "ecosystem".


This research represents a paradigm shift from designing building environmental controls as a centralized one-size-fits-all, static technological product to a decentralized, flexible and adaptable intelligent environmental system supporting symbiotic relationships between humans and buildings. Using environmental controls as a trainable interface between human and building, the intelligent environmental system forms a functional unity. This concept allows the definition of the human-building ecosystem as a "joint cognitive structure."

Related projects:

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