University of Oregon research on microbial communities in 72 homes

  • Elisabeth Bik

The University of Oregon published this announcement on AAAS’ EurekAlert: Oregon architecture researchers to study indoor air quality in 72 homes. So a good song to play while reading this post would be: “Portland, Oregon” ‌‌by Loretta Lynn & Jack White. The press release starts off with a short summary of this project:

Screen Shot 2015-08-01 at 1.31.42 PMUniversity of Oregon researchers and industry partners are exploring how indoor home microbial environments change — and what that means to human health — when whole-house weatherization projects are implemented. The work is being done under a grant of almost $1 million from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as part of its Science to Achieve Results program and Indoor Air and Climate Change initiative. The EPA announced new funding to nine institutions to pursue studies on the effects of climate change on indoor air quality and resulting health effects.

The grant’s lead investigator is G.Z. “Charlie” Brown, director of the UO’s Energy Studies in Buildings Laboratory. The project is a follow up after his collaboration with Jessica Green and Brendan Bohannan as co-investigators of the UO’s Alfred P. Sloan Foundation-funded Biology and the Built Environment Center. Says Brown:

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GZ (Charlie) Brown

“What’s unique about this project is the way it attempts to link microbial composition and health-related factors with energy conservation and design practices like daylighting and natural ventilation”

Brown points out that all microbes – good or bad – will be investigated.

“A lot of work has been done on pathogens. Only recently have scientists approached this with the idea that some microbes are good for you.”

The research will be conducted in 72 houses in Portland and Bend, Oregon.

These two locations will allow the research team to study the influence of different geographical locations and climate conditions on specific indoor-air-quality indicators during winter and summer seasons. In addition, co-lead investigator Deborah Johnson-Shelton of the Oregon Research Institute will survey of 218 households in these two cities. Participants will be selected from those planning home weatherization improvements with the support of Clean Energy Works Oregon.

These precise numbers (72, 218) makes me wonder if the sampling has already been taken place. But the analysis probably still needs to happen.

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Judith Sheine

“This work combines two streams of research together in one project,” said Judith Sheine, head of the UO Department of Architecture. “It incorporates years of building science research conducted by the Energy Studies in Buildings Lab on passive heating and cooling with newer research on microbial ecology and environments.”

You can read the complete article on AAAS’ Eureka Alert.


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