Making microbiology of the built environment relevant to design

The title of this commentary in Microbiome, “Making microbiology of the built environment relevant to design” gets right to the heart of one of the long-standing issues in the field.  Thanks in no small part to the Sloan Foundation program in the Microbiology of the Built Environment, as well as technological changes in DNA sequencing… we now know far more about the invisible occupants of the buildings that surround us than we did a decade ago.   We have a much better grasp of the diversity and biogeography of microbes (particularly bacteria) in the built environment.

However, in many ways we’re not that much closer to answering the question posed by architects and designers from the beginning “That’s great that you have these lists of bacteria… but how do I better design a building that increases the well-being of the occupants?”.

This commentary, written by Charlie Brown and other members of the BioBE Center in Oregon discusses some of the reasons for this, as well as a couple of suggestions moving forward.  Very quick read and very useful.  Abstract below:

Architects are enthusiastic about “bioinformed design” as occupant well-being is a primary measure of architectural success. However, architects are also under mounting pressure to create more sustainable buildings. Scientists have a critical opportunity to make the emerging field of microbiology of the built environment more relevant and applicable to real-world design problems by addressing health and sustainability in tandem. Practice-based research, which complements evidence-based design, represents a promising approach to advancing knowledge of the indoor microbiome and translating it to architectural practice.


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David Coil

David Coil is a Project Scientist in the lab of Jonathan Eisen at UC Davis. David works at the intersection between research, education, and outreach in the areas of the microbiology of the built environment, microbial ecology, and bacterial genomics. Twitter