Researcher biography

Dr Paola Leardini is the Program Convenor of the Master of Urban Development and Design and the Bachelor of Design of the University of Queensland's School of Architecture; she is a leading researcher of the Centre for Future Building Structure, and a member of the Australian Government funded Cooperative Research Centre for Water Sensitive. She studied architecture with a focus on green technologies in Milan, Berlin, Leicester and Copenhagen, and holds a PhD on building energy efficiency and environmental quality from the Politecnico di Milano (Italy). Her doctorate work was undertaken under the guidance of Prof P. Ole Fanger, one of the world's leading experts in the field of thermal comfort.

Dr Leardini has worked as an ESD designer and consultant, and taught in tertiary institutions in Italy, Switzerland, Germany and New Zealand, before joining the University of Queensland in 2015. Her current professional and academic work aims at dissolving the apparent dichotomy between design and performance in architecture and urban design, promoting smart and resilient built environments through integrated water and energy design strategies for engaged communities and multifunctional public space. This overarching goal has driven her latest research on circular economy in construction with a focus on mass timber prefabrication and adaptable/scalable housing, water sensitive urban design and flood resilience.

Her research focuses on environmental impacts and resilience of the built environment, including investigation and assessment of multiple intervention strategies for low to positive energy buildings and urban districts. Through her academic and professional activity, she has built up extensive experience in building diagnostic and retrofitting, and urban regeneration. In 2003-04 she contributed to the major urban regeneration and social housing retrofitting program of the historical district "Quartiere Mazzini" in Milan (Italy), funded by the Lombardy Regional Council. Later, her research focused on eco-retrofitting of state housing developments in New Zealand, financially supported by the University of Auckland and industry partners. As a certified Passivhaus designer, in 2012 Dr Leardini became founding member of the Passive House Institute New Zealand (PHINZ), and in 2018, joined the Australian Passive House Association (APHA). In 2015, Dr Leardini became a member of the Cooperative Research Centre for Water Sensitive Cities, a government funded, inter-disciplinary research initiative involving over 80 research, industry and government partners, to deliver socio-technical urban water management solutions to make Australian towns and cities water sensitive. Since its inception, she has been an active research member of UQ Centre for Future Timber Structure, a Centre of excellence to generate knowledge-based innovations and accelerate engineered timber products uptake by the building industry, contributing to de-carbonising the built environment. Dr Leardini is also a member of the Design Excellence Panel: Queensland social and affordable housing, recently established by the Department of Communities, Housing and Digital Economy in partnership with the Office of the Queensland Government Architect.

Her studies on comfort and energy efficiency of new and historic residential buildings, as well as quality and resilience of public space have been published internationally. Dr Leardini serves as a board member and a reviewer of scientific journals and has been invited to join judging panels of prestigious sustainable architecture competitions, including the Climate CoLab by the MIT Centre for Collective Intelligence.


  • Design Excellence Panel: Queensland social and affordable housing (since 2020)
  • Centre for Future Timber Structures (since 2016)
  • Scientific Committee of New Zealand Academy of Applied Research (since 2016)
  • Australian Passive House Association (since 2018)
  • Cooperative Research Centre for Water Sensitive Cities (2015-2021)