Architectural design influences the diversity and structure of the built environment microbiome

Posted by Siru Heiskanen on Feb 9, 2017

Authors: Kembel, S. W., Jones, E., Kline, J. E., Northcutt, D., Stenson, J., Womack, A. M., Bohannan, B. J. M., Brown, G. Z. and Green, J. L.

Year of publication: 2012

Publication: The ISME Journal, 6, pp. 1469–1479.

Keywords: microbes, design, humidity, temperature, indoor air,

Link to publication
This study (2012) surveyed the microbiome composition of a health-care facility to find out how they differed among outdoor air, mechanically ventilated rooms and window-ventilated rooms. Microbial organisms enter buildings from outside, primarily through ventilation, indoor surfaces and the bodies of humans and other organisms moving from outdoors to indoors. Despite this, the indoor ecosystem has been found to be different from the one outside: air temperature, humidity, the source of ventilation and occupant density can influence the abundance and transmission of the micro-organisms. Researchers from Milwaukie, U.S., sampled the airborne microbes and studied their taxonomic compositions using DNA-sequencing, and measured environmental conditions such as temperature, humidity and airflow rate.

The study found, that airborne bacterial communities:
  • Had lower diversity indoors than outdoors, and in mechanically ventilated rooms than window-ventilated rooms
  • Contained many taxa indoors that were absent or rare outdoors, including many human pathogens, and were more abundant
  • Had a higher abundance of potential human pathogens indoors with higher temperatures, and lower airflow rates and relative humidity

The study concludes, that through building design and operation, it is possible to manage the microbial species that could be potentially harmful for humans.

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