Why am I choosing to spend six months at the Sustainable Building Research Center in South Korea? It all started with my supervisor Thomas Olofsson. A couple of weeks into my PhD studies he told me about an exchange that he had done during his PhD project. My immediate response was “I also want to do that, when can I go?”. He was very encouraging but told me that it could be a good idea to wait and do the exchange about half way through my PhD project, “then you will have a bit more experience and be able to work more independently”, he said. A week before I left Sweden for Korea I held my midterm seminar.
Being in Korea now, I believe that my supervisor was right. Most PhD students would probably agree that every day as a PhD student is a challenge, an extremely fun and developing challenge, but still a challenge. Working at an office where they speak a language that I do not understand and their English is limited, it is good that I kind of know what I am doing or at least have an idea of where I am heading in my PhD project.
Anyway, I consciously started taking note of the affiliation of the authors of the scientific literature I was reading. Most researchers worked in Scandinavia, but I will be honest and say that I wanted to travel a bit further than that. I contacted a few researcher, among them Professor Sungho Tae at Hanyang University, and he invited me to come and work in Korea for six months. I thought that the Sustainable Building Research Center at Hanyang Univeristy was a great fit for me for several reasons. Both Sweden and Korea are in need of buildings that can handle temperatures well below and well above zero degrees Celsius. Buildings are in need of heating in the winter and cooling in the summer. This is a challenge from an energy and design perspective. However, it is quite clear that we solve these challenges in different ways, which is interesting to study.
One example of this was a couple of weeks ago when Professor Sungho Tae invited me to join him to a meeting with Dr. Chae Chang-U at the Korean Institute of Civil Engineering and Building Technology (KICT). KICT has their offices in a Zero Carbon Green Home prototype building and of course, I got a guided tour through the building. Some energy solutions that were proudly displayed in the building was insulation, heat recovery ventilation and three glass windows. Solutions that are standard in Sweden to reach building regulations. Of course Professor Tae and Dr. Chang-U where well aware of this, nevertheless, buildings does normally not include these energy solutions in Korea. This experience made me a bit proud of the Swedish building energy performance. But we cannot relax and feel like we have it all under control because Korea is developing quickly and there are a lot of money going into the development of green building certification systems.
This exchange also gives me an opportunity that I do not have at Umeå University, a research center completely dedicated to building life cycle assessment. Which is a great opportunity since my PhD project focus on environmental performance measures to assess sustainable construction from a life cycle perspective. The language has been a bit of a barrier for knowledge exchange but I still have some months left here so hopefully it will work out. I really enjoy the experience, however, and there are so much more than just the office and research experience that I will bring with me from this exchange.