Although humans in the developed world spend 90% of their lives in enclosed buildings, we know very little about the biology of the built environment. Buildings are complex ecosystems that house trillions of diverse microorganisms interacting with each other, with humans, and with their environment. Recent advances in microbial genomics offer the potential to significantly advance our understanding of the built environment “microbiome” – the totality of microbial cells, their genetic elements, and their interactions indoors. To realize this potential, the Biology and the Built Environment (BioBE) Center is training a new generation of innovators and practitioners at the architecture-biology interface. The vision of this national research center, funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, is to develop a hypothesis-driven, evidence-based approach to understand the built environment microbiome. Our goal is to optimize the design and operation of buildings to promote both human health and environmental sustainability, with an emphasis on green healthcare design.
Current expertise and research
The BioBE Center is based at the University of Oregon and led by:
Our interdisciplinary team has expertise in sustainability and energy use in buildings, ecological theory, microbiology, indoor air and surface sampling, molecular sample preparation, high-throughput sequencing, and bioinformatic and statistical analyses. Building on this expertise, we are addressing fundamental questions about architectural practices and the built environment microbiome. These questions include but are not limited to: what dispersal vectors (e.g. ventilation versus human occupancy) significantly influence the built environment microbiome? What attributes of the built environment (e.g. building materials versus interior temperature) shape microbial community composition indoors? How do the drivers of microbial biodiversity in the indoor environment vary with climate, geography, and building use?