Improving the building performance of health care clinics in remote communities : a case study of Wanarn Community Clinic, Wanarn, Western Australia

  • Samuel Udom

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Remote communities, by their very nature, include the key elements of social, cultural, economic, environmental and geographic attributes which make the provision of infrastructures challenging and expensive compared to the rest of Australia. Studies have shown that economic, environmental and health benefits of high performing buildings can be harnessed to improve outcomes when the performance of a building is improved. To achieve the improvement, it is first necessary to understand various aspects of the current buildings and then to determine ways that future buildings can be improved. At present, the energy and thermal performance of health care clinics in remote communities (with respect to Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ) and energy consumption) are relatively unknown and there is still uncertainty regarding the perceptions of users on specific IEQ factors. This lacking information hinders the exploration of building performance enhancement solutions, which are essential for addressing the high cost of delivery, operation and maintenance of health care clinics in remote communities in Australia. An increase in Indigenous-specific healthcare expenditure from $115 million in 1996 to $899 million in 2019 provides compelling evidence for action (AIHW, 2020). This research applied an evidence-based approach using three performance quantification methods to generate data on the thermal and energy performance of a case study building (the clinic). Thermal comfort surveys were administered to Indigenous and non-Indigenous occupants of the clinic between 2017 and 2019, concurrent with on-site monitoring of energy and climatic conditions. The resultant data was then used as inputs for simulating improvement outcomes, employing DesignBuilder and EnergyPlus software tools. Results from the thermal comfort surveys suggested that the Indigenous occupants of the clinic have differing understandings of thermal perceptions and preferences on comfort and are comfortable at higher indoor temperatures than the non-Indigenous occupants. The building performance simulation results suggest lighting upgrades and high thermal mass as the top key performance indicators for energy and thermal performance improvements respectively in isolation. However, as a major outcome, introducing solar powered air conditioning units only as a performance improvement measure proved best in context when compared to the other measures considered particularly from an economic point of view. Further, current energy and thermal performance data is crucial to determine this, providing useful insights towards the planning and operation of high performing health care clinics in the region.
Date of Award2022
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorSaeed Banihashemi (Supervisor), Charles Lemckert (Supervisor) & Scott Heyes (Supervisor)

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