HERC Recap: Daylight Exposure & Microbial Communities Indoors

The microbiome and its relevance to healthy environments was of critical interest at the Health Energy Research Consortium.  Ashkaan Fahimipour, presented BioBE‘s recent investigations in microbial communities and exposure to daylight.

Humans spend most of their time indoors, exposed to bacterial communities found in dust. Understanding what determines the structure of these communities may therefore have relevance for human health. Light exposure in particular is a critical building design consideration and is known to alter growth and mortality rates of many bacterial populations, but the effects of light on the structure of entire dust communities are unclear.

We performed a controlled microcosm experiment designed to parse the effects of filtered solar radiation on the structure of dust microbial communities.

We report that exposure to light per se has marked effects on community diversity, composition and viability, while variation in light dosage or particular wavelengths experienced are associated with nuanced changes in community structure. Our results suggest that architects and lighting professionals designing rooms with more or less access to daylight may play a role in shaping bacterial communities associated with indoor dust.

This post is part of a blog series sharing information covered at the Health Energy Research Consortium in Portland, OR May 4-5, 2017. 

International VELUX Award: Automated Blinds Study

Congratulations to Amir Nezamdoost (UO architecture PhD student) and research assistant Alen Mahic for winning the Regional Award for The Americas in the International VELUX Award for Students of Architecture competition, presented recently at the World Architecture Festival in Berlin.

The team’s research estimates an annual savings of 390,000 kBtu, or $7,800 using automated blind controls over manual controls in a high-rise building in Boise, Idaho. The advantage over the automated controls is that manual blinds tend to remain closed longer throughout the day than automated blinds, which retract to take advantage of natural daylight.

The non-energy benefits, or annual productivity savings, equate to $274,500 per year, Nezamdoost said.

“There are numerous additional benefits such as increased occupant comfort, health, and productivity. Savings can be significant—assuming an increase in productivity of employees due to improved indoor environmental quality from increased availability of daylight and views, decreased discomfort due to glare and direct sunlight, and decreased time spent to manually adjust blinds.”

Watch this video about the team’s research, which shows how the automated blinds maximize light and views in an office building to enhance productivity and save energy.

International VELUX Award: Automated Blinds Study from veluxusa on Vimeo.

Since first appearing in 2004, the International VELUX Award has grown into the largest global student award within architecture, with outreach to more than 350 schools of architecture in 60 countries and a collection of 4,000 projects submitted since the first award in 2004.

“The award has a special focus on architecture for health and well-being. We want to encourage students to take up the challenges faced by cities and societies, where daylight and architecture can foster change through better and healthier living environments,” said Per Arnold Andersen of the VELUX Group.

 

Courtesy A&AA Communications

Mhuireach Awarded A&AA Dissertation Fellowship 2017-2018

Congratulations to Gwynne Mhuireach for winning a Dissertation Fellowship from the School of Architecture & Allied Arts at the University of Oregon!  Her working dissertation title is: Toward a Mechanistic Understanding of Relationships Between Airborne Microbial Communities and Urban Vegetation: Implications for Urban Planning and Human Well-being.  Mhuireach holds an M.Architecture (2012) from the University of Oregon and a B.S. in Biology (Ecology and Evolution Track, 1999) form the University of Washington. She is presently a Graduate Research Fellow at the Energy Studies in Buildings Laboratory and BioBE Center at University of Oregon.  Her anticipated graduation is June 2018.

Recent publication: Urban greenness influences airborne bacterial community composition

Dissertation Abstract: Variation in exposure to environmental microbial communities has been implicated in the etiology of allergies, asthma and other immune-related disorders. In particular, exposure to a high diversity of microbes during early life, for example through living in highly vegetated environments like farms or forests, may have specific health benefits, including immune system development and stimulation. In the face of rapidly growing cities and potential reductions in urban green space, it is vital to clarify whether and how microbial community composition is related to vegetation. The purpose of my proposed research is to identify plausible but under-explored mechanisms through which urban vegetation may influence public health. Specifically, I am investigating how airborne microbial communities vary with the amount, structural diversity, and/or species composition of green space for 50 sites in Eugene, Oregon. My approach combines geographic information systems (GIS) and remote sensing data with passive air sampling and culture-independent microbial sequencing.

Committee members:

  • Dr. Bart Johnson, Professor of Landscape Architecture (Major Advisor & Committee Chair)
  • Dr. Jessica Green, Professor of Biology (Co-Advisor)
  • Roxi Thoren, Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture (Core Member)
  • Dr. Deb Johnson-Shelton, Education/Health Researcher, Oregon Research Institute (Core Member)
  • G.Z. Brown, Professor of Architecture (Institutional Representative)