What is the impact of greening in the local microclimate?

This research project forms part of a series of subprojects associated with The Living Pavilion, a temporary festival that aims to illuminate Indigenous and ecological knowledge of past and present, foster collaboration across disciplines, and share and celebrate the uniqueness and potential of ‘place’.

Research team

Jenny Zhou and her team in Monash University

Project objective

Using a new product for environmental quality monitoring (the OPENAURAE) this project will map out the microclimate of the living pavilion. This will simultaneously serve to evaluate the impact of greening in the local microclimate as well as test this new product.

Key research question

How can we apply the OPENAURAE system to evaluate the microclimate condition of TLP event and other environments?


Scientists have evidence that climate change has led to increased events of wildfires and thunderstorms. The environmental and health impacts of both events are considerable, not only do they threaten lives directly, but they have the potential to increase local air pollution. For instance, wildfires in Victoria (2006/7) increased the levels of small particles in the air four times above recommended levels by the World Health Organization. SImilarly, thunderstorm asthma events were recorded in Melbourne in 2016 and Wagga Wagga in 1997. This also leads to significant economic loss.

While the effect of indoor and outdoor air pollution and air quality have been vastly documented, outdoor air pollution monitoring stations are limited to a few outdoor monitoring stations, with moderate time-resolution (e.g. 1-h average), which limits the ability to characterize the pollutant variability and sources in both outdoor and indoor spaces. Meanwhile, technology to study and analyse indoor built environment has grown to incorporate multiple sensors across the built space effectively identifying shifts in the microscale for both air quality and temperature. This has led to the identification of strategies to mediate problematic areas creating microclimates or pockets of air deemed ‘safe’ by national and international standards.

We believe that strategies deemed effective to monitor indoor environmental quality can be emulated and brought to the outdoor spaces at a low-cost. Thus, we developed the OPENAURAE system for the measurement of 10 environmental quality matrix, including Temperature, Relative Humidity, and concentrations of Carbon Dioxide, Formaldehyde, Total Volatile Compounds, PM0.5, PM1, PM2.5, PM5, and PM10, to development board, and has been programmed for wireless data transmission to cloud. This system will be implemented in the Living Pavilion to assess the effectivity of the system to monitor the microclimate of outdoor spaces while simultaneously mapp out the effects of this installation in the temperature and air quality within its boundaries.


To achieve this objective, we will install a total of 3 sensors within the boundaries of The Living Pavilion to monitor from mid April to late May. Covering the period before, during and after the installation of this art-science intervention. We will map out the environmental qualities and match our measurements with the environmental conditions throughout that period in an effort to evaluate the thermal comfort of the users of The Living Pavilion.

Model for thermal conformt

Why is this research important?

The traditional instruments are typical expensive (>$10,000), and require extensive resources for installation and maintenance. The low-cost air quality assessment products, with unit costs usually less than $1000, can be used to complement the AirWatch network. The low-cost network is also able to capture small spatial scale and high temporal variability in both outdoor and indoor environments. In addition, the low-cost sensing system is advantageous for monitoring human-occupied spaces, which has previously hindered by the heavy and obtrusive instruments.

In this work, we will assess if the OPENAURAE system could meet our purpose of fast screening and real-time monitoring in TLP event. The established protocol will also be applied to other environmental setting, such as different types of indoor spaces, well-controlled laboratory environments, and complex ambient outdoor conditions.