In This Issue
Microbiomes of the Built Environment
September 15, 2022 Volume 52 Issue 3
The covid-19 pandemic suddenly directed awareness to potential health impacts of the built environment of everyday living – schools, dwellings, offices, public buildings, and other spaces. This issue explores the “microbiome” of the built environment in the postpandemic reality in terms of ventilation performance, filtration, understanding and quantification of transmission risk, protection of “benign” microbes, and the important role of equity, among others.
Articles In This Issue
  • Thursday, September 22, 2022
    AuthorDonald C. Winter

    I expect that few individuals today would question the notion that we live in challenging times. Today’s challenges are very diverse—from climate change and covid-19 to economic disruption and national security threats in Europe and the Pacific.

    Society calls out for leadership: ...

  • Wednesday, September 21, 2022
    AuthorRonald M. Latanision

    The global covid-19 pandemic has not only imposed immediate changes on daily life, work, education, and commerce but also ushered in new thinking about the ways—and places—we work, study, and live. While some buildings are upgrading their HVAC systems to reduce risks of airborne ...

  • Tuesday, September 20, 2022
    AuthorCharles Haas and Vivian Loftness

    On average, individuals spend 87 percent of their time indoors (Klepeis et al. 2001). Therefore, human exposures in this environment need to be characterized to determine where, how, and how much intervention is needed to reduce risks. While the focus here is on microbial exposure, indoor exposure ...

  • Tuesday, September 20, 2022
    AuthorErica M. Hartmann

    Healthful built environments require attention to design, energy consumption, air exchange, maintenance, and equity.

    In Maslow’s hierarchy, shelter is a physiological need, humans’ most fundamental requirement, and the basis of safety. People expect built environments to protect them ...

  • Tuesday, September 20, 2022
    AuthorCharles N. Haas

    There is no average dose at which the estimated risk to a population is zero, so decision making must incorporate a concept of acceptable residual risk.

    The estimation of risk from exposure to microorganisms in the indoor environment is useful to assess the degree to which controls, such as ...

  • Tuesday, September 20, 2022
    AuthorJelena Srebric and Donald K. Milton

    Ventilation, filtration, and germicidal UV air disinfection can be even more effective with investment, standards, research, development, and policies to support their use.

    Active air interventions are an important mechanism for reducing risks of infection transmission due to inhalation of ...

  • Tuesday, September 20, 2022
    AuthorAndrew K. Persily and Jeffrey A. Siegel

    Improvements to ventilation system performance vary by building, use, existing system capacity, local climate, and other factors.

    In response to the covid-19 pandemic and in recognition of the importance of airborne disease transmission, there have been multiple calls to ensure adequate building ...

  • Tuesday, September 20, 2022
    AuthorHooman Parhizkar, Alen Mahic, and Kevin G. Van Den Wymelenberg

    Innovative technologies, practices, and control systems are needed to balance risk of disease transmission and operational energy use.

    The covid-19 pandemic has dramatically increased public awareness of airborne disease transmission and the importance of mitigation strategies to remove ...

  • Tuesday, September 20, 2022
    AuthorKerry A. Hamilton and Timothy Bartrand

    Research and data are needed to improve understanding of water-related microbiomes in buildings to reduce disease outbreaks and enhance public health.

    A “microenvironment” is the immediate small-scale environment of a structure or organism (or part of it), as distinct from the larger ...

  • Monday, September 19, 2022
    AuthorAmanda M. Wilson, Diane R. Gold, and Paloma I. Beamer

    An understanding of pathogen transmission is necessary to effectively protect the built—and human—microbiome.

    The early widespread concern during the covid-19 pandemic about surface transmission of the disease has waned. There was only one confirmed case, to our knowledge, of surface ...

  • Monday, September 19, 2022
    AuthorMegan S. Thoemmes, Sarah M. Allard, and Jack A. Gilbert

    Beneficial microbial and macrobial exposures can increase immune health and reduce the spread of disease.


    “…to maintain the air within the room as fresh as the air without.…”

    – Florence Nightingale (1859)

    Microbial interactions that occur in built ...

  • Tuesday, September 13, 2022
    AuthorDiane R. Gold, Tyra Bryant-Stephens, Elizabeth C. Matsui, and Lee Ann Kahlor

    Community engagement, communication, and collaboration are needed to help address poor housing quality that contributes to disease.

    Research in recent decades has helped disaggregate the components of the built environment that contribute to the increased risk of respiratory infections in poorer ...

  • Tuesday, September 13, 2022
    AuthorRobert R. Dunn and Megan S. Thoemmes

    People need to know how to manage the microbiomes of daily life to favor beneficial species, ignore benign species, and target problem species.

    The story of microbes in the built environment—including houses and apartments, office buildings, schools, barns, production facilities, and other ...

  • Monday, September 12, 2022
    AuthorHelen Wang

    RON LATANISION (RML): Welcome, Helen. We’re delighted to talk with you. I understand you’re a trained computer scientist and had a substantial career at Microsoft Research.

    HELEN WANG: Yes, I spent 14 years there. When I first arrived, I was one of two women researchers at the Systems ...

  • Monday, September 12, 2022
    AuthorGuru Madhavan

    Inspired by the name of this quarterly, this column reflects on the practices and uses of engineering and its influences as a cultural enterprise. This issue’s column also appeared as a feature essay in the summer 2022 issue of Issues in Science and Technology.

    When asked what form he would ...