Just as our bodies teem with microbial life, so, too, do the homes, offices, schools, and other indoor spaces where we spend the majority of our lives. Scientists across the globe are now taking a closer look at the bacteria and fungi that live alongside us. They want to better understand whether indoor microbes affect our health and whether we—through the ways we design and live in buildings—shape their communities.

Researchers in this emerging field known as the microbiome of the built environment come from varied backgrounds, including architecture; ecology; evolution; and heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) installation. But many of them share the same goal: to design buildings to encourage microbial ecosystems that benefit human health.

Considering these microbes may be...

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