Time to Design Buildings for Better Bugs?

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I know, I don't particularly like to think about all the germs that congregate with us as we mix and mingle at meetings. But they are as eternal a staple as chicken entrees and too-loud music at receptions, and think about them we must. Despite the ick factor, and even though the trend toward posting hand sanitizer outside every session door seems to be growing, we also must acknowledge that not all bugs are bad for us—in fact, some actually keep us healthy.

Which is why a recent PLOS One article on how a building's design affects where and how our bacterial buddies hang out caught my attention. Called Architectural Design Drives the Biogeography of Indoor Bacterial Communities, the article explains how the researchers at University of Oregon used the school's 13-year-0ld LEED-certified business complex as their architectural petri dish. After building a model and sampling all over the complex, they found that microbe populations in different areas of the building were determined by things like ventilation, light, and location. Which means that we could someday use the same parameters to intentionally build buildings with better microbiomes in their soaring halls and nooks and crannies—even our meetings and conventions space. I love this idea!

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