Jessica participated in the HOPES Conference at the University of Oregon last week on a panel discussing the “Limits and Opportunities of Design.” The panel was comprised of diverse perspectives on building design including experts in sociology, chemistry, and architecture.
HOPES (Holistic Options for Planet Earth Sustainability) is an annual conference that began in 1995 which “works to promote the deeper understanding and broader application of sustainable design principles.”
G.Z. Brown, director of Energy Studies and Buildings Laboratory, just returned from the National Energy Efficiency Technology Roadmapping Summit. Researchers in building energy use were invited to update and refine a portfolio of residential and commercial technology roadmaps. Their efforts helped to establish a “research agenda to guide technology investment strategies in building design and envelopes, lighting, HVAC, energy management systems, and other areas.” Brown described the Sloan-funded BioBE project and the potential for microorganisms to enhance the energy performance of buildings.
BioBE participated in the Microbiology of the Built Environment Session at the Lake Arrowhead Microbial Genomics Meeting (September 16-20, 2012). James Meadow shared some exciting new BioBE results from a study at the Lillis Business Complex, detailing the influences of architectural design and human occupancy on airborne microbial communities over time. A great summary of the session is described on the microBEnet blog. The session was also followed by many on Twitter who were unable to attend, and the rousing feed from the meeting is here. The built environment session consisted of a great mix of topics including microbial dispersal in buildings, archaeal nitrogen cycling in managed aquatic systems, viral communities in public restrooms, fungi in the built environment, and Pseudomonas cultures from homes. This session definitely piqued curiosity about built environment microbiology, as conversations for the rest of the conference often turned to indoor microbial ecology. Thanks to Jeffrey Miller and his lab for organizing an excellent meeting, and to the Sloan Foundation for sponsoring the built environment session!
Indoor microbiology was a notable presence at last week’s ISME Congress in Copenhagen, Denmark. The biennial summit of the world’s microbial ecologists featured research from a growing number of indoor microbiology groups, including the BioBE Center. Tim O’Connor presented the Center’s latest results on the microbial biogeography of the Lillis Business Complex (“Building-scale biogeography of indoor bacteria”). As revealed by microbial DNA in settled dust, everything is not everywhere within buildings; rather, architectural parameters and human use produce spatially structured bacterial communities. Other indoor microbiome highlights included a round-table discussion entitled “Indoor Microbiology: new molecular-based insights and management strategies,” which promoted the field’s recent advances and open questions. We look forward to even more great built-environment microbiology at the next ISME Congress in Seoul.
Brendan Bohannan and Thomas Bruns have organized a session at the upcoming Ecological Society of America meeting in Portland titled, “The Great Indoors: Recent Advances in the Ecology of Built Environments.” Here’s the session description:
“[We] are basically an indoor species. In a modern society, total time outdoors is the most insignificant part of the day….” (Ott 1989) “We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us.” (Churchill 1943) Although humans in industrialized countries spend nearly 90% of their time in enclosed buildings (Klepeis et al. 2001), we know very little about the biology of the indoor environment. However this is starting to change. Over the past few years the field of indoor ecology has grown dramatically. Ecologists are beginning to apply ecological theory and concepts to understanding buildings as ecosystems. A new understanding of the biodiversity of built environments is emerging, as well as a new appreciation of the importance of interactions between humans and non-human life indoors. This organized oral session will showcase this emerging understanding. We will feature presentations that demonstrate the utility of ecological theory for understanding built environments, that describe the dynamics of biodiversity indoors and that illustrate the interactions of humans with indoor ecology. Our focus will be on the ecology of the dominant forms of non-human life indoors –microorganisms – and their interactions with humans.
For more information and abstracts of contributing talks go to the ESA session webpage here. See you in Portland!
Graduate Research Fellow, Gwynne Mhuireach, discussed current BioBE Center research on potential links between sustainable building design and indoor microbial communities at Healthy Buildings 2012 in Brisbane Australia, July 8 – 12. Ventilation rates and methods are a key architectural consideration that can have a significant impact both on building energy use and on microbial community composition.
To view the presentation, follow this link to SlideShare. Many thanks to Sloan Foundation and microBEnet for organizing this session!
The BioBE Center took part in the Inaugural Conference on the Microbiology of the Built Environment in at CU Boulder, May 31 – June 1. Jessica Green, Gwynne Mhuireach, and Steve Kembel presented recent work conducted in the Lillis Business Building and discussed architectural design implications given the building’s microbiome. Thanks to Mark Hernandez and Alina Handorean for organizing a perfect venue to facilitate new collaborations and interdisciplinary dialog between biologists, architects, and engineers.