Professor Paul Cooper, pictured on Innovation Campus. Photo: Paul Jones

Engineer’s lifelong work recognised at highest level

Engineer’s lifelong work recognised at highest level

Professor Paul Cooper awarded prestigious medal for helping to improve living, working environments

A University of Wollongong academic’s lifelong dedication to developing positive societal outcomes through the most efficient and effective engineering solutions has now been recognised at the highest level by his industry colleagues.

Professor Paul Cooper was last night in Sydney (14 November) awarded the James Harrison Medal – the most prestigious honour the Australian Institute of Refrigeration, Air Conditioning and Heating (AIRAH) can bestow on nominees.

The award, named after Australian refrigeration pioneer James Harrison, recognises the top levels of individual achievement in the Australian refrigeration and air conditioning industry.

Professor Cooper, who is Founding Director of the Sustainable Buildings Research Centre (SBRC)* at UOW’s Innovation Campus, was lauded for developing effective engineering solutions which have improved people’s living and working environments.

Since the inception of the SBRC in 2010, the staff and students have achieved a remarkable portfolio of achievements under Professor Cooper’s leadership. As a result of the establishment of the SBRC, two teams of students and staff have now participated in international Solar Decathlon competitions. UOW is the only university in Australia to have even attempted to enter a Solar Decathlon, let alone win 1st and 2nd places in separate competitions.

Professor Cooper was the Faculty Advisor and the lead academic on the Team UOW Solar Decathlon China 2013 campaign. Team UOW won entry to, and then went on to win the Solar Decathlon China Competition with their ‘Illawarra Flame House’, winning with a world record overall score of 957.6 points out of a maximum of 1000 – a record that stood for five years. The Illawarra Flame House is now located adjacent to the SBRC Building where it is used as a net-zero energy Living Laboratory. It is also integrated into the SBRC microgrid, and is a test-bed for many new technologies and systems.

Under Professor Cooper’s leadership the SBRC has become home to arguably the most extensive range of sustainable building test facilities in the Southern Hemisphere. This includes the new $1.8 million ‘Building Insights Facility’, which is a multi-functional suite of infrastructure for thermal testing of façade systems, windows, moisture transfer and heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems.

The SBRC is recognised as a unique research facility with a key focus on research for the improvement of the sustainability and resilience of new-build and existing building stock. This includes interdisciplinary research on a wide range of topics from the day-to-day energy efficiency practices of low income households through to development of new construction and building services technologies.

Professor Cooper has been involved in research on a wide variety of topics in sustainable buildings, energy systems, energy efficiency and fluid mechanics over the past 30 years and continues to contribute significantly to the wider industry through his collaborations within many leading industry publications.

His research specialities are: Energy in buildings, retrofitting of buildings for energy efficiency and sustainability, thermal comfort, indoor environmental quality and energy efficiency in aged care and dementia facilities, renewable energy technologies, ventilation, and energy and pollution control in buildings.

During his award acceptance speech, Professor Cooper acknowledged the industry has "a major part to play in reducing . . . societal and environmental impacts, such as the current global heating crisis".

"In particular, we need people who have the creativity and drive to help our society meet some really significant global environmental challenges that are happening right now and will continue into the coming decades," Professor Cooper said.

AIRAH president Ian Harwood said AIRAH’s highest accolade went to Professor Cooper for his focus on developing the most efficient and effective engineering solutions to improve the quality of living and working environments for all.

Chairman of Daikin Australia Pty Ltd (event sponsors), Bob Woodhouse, said Professor Cooper has developed a very strong relationship with its industry and one where he has made an amazing contribution. 

[*The SBRC Building won the NSW Australian Institute of Architects 2015 Milo Dunphy Sustainable Architecture Award. It is also one of only a handful of 6 Star Green Star buildings in the Australian higher education sector and is on target to be the first building in Australia to win full Living Building Challenge accreditation and will join a list of only 11 other such buildings worldwide.]