Last week, the staff of the Biology and the Built Environment Center presented cutting-edge science from the Center and beyond to a group of interested practitioners. The Design Champs webinar series is intended to communicate new scientific advances in the field of indoor microbial ecology research to architects, engineers, and other interested parties. For this second seminar in the series, we had representatives in attendance from:
- ZGF Architects
- Thornton Tomasetti
- SRG Partnership
- Hacker Architects
The group was lively, and participated in a active discussion of some of the science we’ve been doing at the BioBE Center lately. In particular, we briefed them on some thoughts on hygiene that we’ve been having lately, and then discussed how that might impact the way we think about design; next, we discussed the human microbial cloud, tying the idea into the discussion of hygiene and design; this led smoothly to a discussion of some of our most recent work, focusing on the transmission of microbes to the human skin microbiome. After discussing how hygiene serves as a conceptual frame for understanding both of those studies, we went on to talk about antimicrobial compounds in built environments, and how that relates to the spread of antibiotic resistance genes.
The webinar finished with a preview of related new work — a much larger study on antibiotic resistance genes in indoor microbiota, conducted across dozen of gyms in the Pacific Northwest, and including the synergistic use of next-generation sequencing for metabarcoding and metagenomics, and targeted LC-MS/MS and intensive antibiotic-resistance culture assays in association with colleagues at Northwestern in Chicago.
Gwynne Mhuireach, a Landscape Architecture PhD candidate and member of BioBE, has been awarded a Science To Achieve Results (STAR) Fellowship from the U.S. EPA to investigate heterogeneity among the microbial communities found in urban residential neighborhoods. She is particularly interested in the influence that abundance, distribution and diversity of vegetation may have on the urban microbiome, and how vegetation and microbes may interact to affect children’s well-being. The STAR Fellowship provides $42,000 per year of funding over a maximum of three years for outstanding graduate students in environmental studies. Since the program began in 1995, EPA has awarded approximately 1,884 Fellowships.
An editorial in the journal Indoor Air from Jessica Green is out today. Jessica describes her vision for incorporating biological insight into architectural design decisions, what she calls “bioinformed design”. In the article, she lays out the arguments for why she believes this is the future of building design and how bioinformed design will shape healthier buildings in the future.
G. Z. Brown just returned from the 2013 AIA National Convention and Design Exposition in Denver, Colorado, where thousands of design professionals gathered to attend workshops, seminars, and talks to discuss leadership for architecture. In a talk titled “Leadership for Affordable, VERY High-Performance Buildings”, G. Z. Brown highlighted the BioBE Center and presented our research from the hospital, business school, and the Climate Chamber experiments through the lens of energy reduction strategies.
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.”
Jessica Green’s most recent TED talk is now available — she talks about how our current building design is unconsciously designing the built environment microbiome. With some great data visualizations from a collaboration with Autodesk she discusses using “bioinformed design” to intentionally structure microbial communities around us.
The University of Oregon’s architecture program was recently selected as the nation’s number one program for sustainable design education in the 2013 report of architecture schools. The top-ranked program has been recognized multiple times as leading sustainable design education.
The Design Intelligence 2013 issue of America’s Best Architecture and Design Schools recently released the rankings of architecture, interiors, landscape architecture, and industrial design schools.
The School of Architecture and Allied Arts (A&AA)’s sustainability leadership comes from decades of innovation, integrated and excellent design, rigorous work, and many partnerships that continually push the boundaries of what the very notion of sustainability means,” said Frances Bronet, dean of A&AA. “Being sixth in North American public institutions is extraordinary,” continues Bronet. “This ranking reflects our deep commitment to rigorous and thoughtful design and the capacities of our incredible students.
– University of Oregon, School of Architecture and Allied Arts
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’s inaugural article was published today in The ISME Journal (available online via Open Access). In it, Kembel et al. report the influence of architectural design on airborne microbial communities in a Portland-area hospital. As compared to outdoor air, the authors find that indoor air harbors less microbial diversity and a higher proportion of potentially pathogenic bacteria. The structure and composition of airborne microbial communities was correlated to a range of building attributes, suggesting that indoor microbiomes can be managed by judiciously manipulating building design and operation. Taken together, these results make the case for evidence-based architectural design informed by a solid understanding of indoor microbial ecology.
Once again, you can see Jessica Green discuss this work at TedGlobal 2011 here.