Scholarship win for Architecture PhD bridging the gap between building science and real estate

Wellington School of Architecture PhD student Germán Molina was awarded the Pacific Rim Real Estate Society (PRRES) Postgraduate Research Scholarship for his paper “How can we make indoor environmental quality relevant in the housing market?” at their recent conference in Canberra.

German Molina sitting in chair in classroom

His research aims to bridge the gap between building science and real estate research, and frame indoor environmental quality and ‘comfort’ as an attribute of housing that can be used as a selling point.

“My PhD is trying to make indoor environmental quality, such as thermal, visual and acoustic comfort, a relevant attribute for dwellings in the housing market. This would encourage developers, architects, and investors to improve the quality of housing which would improve the quality of life for residents and reduce negative impacts of the residential sector on the environment.”

This scholarship is intended to promote excellence in PhD research throughout the Pacific Rim region.

“This award means a lot to me, it shows that a group of very relevant stakeholders – people in real estate research – see the value in what I am doing,” Germán says. “I chose this research area because I believe that a lot of work that aims to make a building better i.e. more comfortable and environmentally friendly, currently falls into the gap between the housing market and building science.”

As he enters his third year of study Germán is planning a major survey of home buyers in New Zealand, with questions based on his findings from a series of interviews he conducted last year. This survey intends to reveal fascinating insights into the differences in the language of comfort used by designers, researchers, and health professionals, and the language of comfort used by home buyers.

“There seems to be a mismatch between the language and views of professionals, such as building scientists, architects, researchers, and engineers, and those of consumers. We need to develop a definition of comfort that is meaningful to people. What do they mean by ‘warm’? What does it mean to have ‘good natural light’? Housing directly affects people’s quality of life, not just financially. It plays an important role in their physical and mental wellbeing and when homes are not comfortable residents tend to solve that problem through appliances such as heaters, HVAC systems, artificial lighting and so on, which affect the environment,” says Germán.

“This scholarship award shows that the industry shares our excitement and interest in a deeper understanding of home buyers’ concept of comfort,” says his supervisor Dr Michael Donn.

Germán is supervised by Dr Michael Donn from Victoria University of Wellington’s School of Architecture and Dr Micael-Lee Johnstone from the School of Marketing and International Business, alongside Dr Casimir MacGregor, Senior Social Scientist from the Building Research Association of New Zealand (BRANZ).