The BioBE Center has just been awarded a 2-year $1.325M renewal grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to investigate the relationship between architectural design and the indoor microbiome – the collection of bacteria, fungi and viruses found inside of buildings – with the goal of optimizing the design and operation of buildings to promote both human health and environmental sustainability.

To date, the BioBE Center has had several significant achievements in research, outreach, and training. BioBE Center research has revealed that indoor microbial communities in air, on surfaces, and in dust are affected by design choices such as form, organization, and ventilation (1-4). These scientific findings have been communicated to the general public through extensive coverage from public media outlets including TED, BBC News, the American Museum of Natural History, Scientific American, Discover, NBC, Wired, and Forbes. In the process of performing this research, the BioBE Center has trained numerous UO students and postdoctoral scholars that have successfully moved onto new scientific and architectural endeavors.

In this next stage, the BioBE Center will expand the exploration of the indoor microbiome to understand how daylighting and chemicals in the built environment impact the function of microbial communities. Special attention will be paid to the role of antimicrobial chemicals in promoting antibiotic resistance indoors.

This grant also includes resources to host a conference at the University of Oregon focused on built environment microbiome models and evidence-based energy design. The BioBE Center will host a panel of experts in indoor air air quality, energy efficient design, statistical modeling and forecasting and possibly machine learning to discuss best practices to guide the optimization of energy use and microbiome health in built environments.

1: Meadow JF, Altrichter AE, Kembel SW, Moriyama M, O’Connor TK, Womack AM, Brown GZ, Green JL, Bohannan BJ. Bacterial communities on classroom surfaces vary with human contact. Microbiome. 2014 Mar 7; 2(1):7.

2: Kembel SW, Meadow JF, O’Connor TK, Mhuireach G, Northcutt D, Kline J, Moriyama M, Brown GZ, Bohannan BJ, Green JL. Architectural design drives the biogeography of indoor bacterial communities. PLoS One. 2014 Jan 29; 9(1):e87093.

3: Meadow JF, Altrichter AE, Kembel SW, Kline J, Mhuireach G, Moriyama M, Northcutt D, O’Connor TK, Womack AM, Brown GZ, Green JL, Bohannan BJ. Indoor airborne bacterial communities are influenced by ventilation, occupancy, and outdoor air source. Indoor Air. 2014 Feb; 24(1):41-8.

4: Kembel SW, Jones E, Kline J, Northcutt D, Stenson J, Womack AM, Bohannan BJ, Brown GZ, Green JL. Architectural design influences the diversity and structure of the built environment microbiome. ISME J. 2012 Aug; 6(8):1469-79.

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