TED Conversations

Jessica Green

Professor, University of Oregon


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Probiotics, like yogurt, are known to support healthy gut microbes. How could we apply this idea support a healthy house, subway, or office?

Live TED Conversation: Join TED Fellow Jessica Green

Jessica is the Director of the Biology and Built Environment (BioBE) Center. Our goal is to optimize the design and operation of buildings to promote both human health and environmental sustainability.

*UPDATE* Jessica will be answering questions LIVE from 1:30PM - 3PM EDT, June 10th, 2011. This conversation will remain open until 6:30PM EDT, June 10th, 2011.


Closing Statement from Jessica Green

Thanks to everyone for sharing your thoughts. I will take this conversation with me as we continue to explore issues surrounding biology and the built environment.

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  • Jun 10 2011: Although probiotics can be beneficial to the microbial system in certain situations, an excess of microbial proliferation can cause ill side effects such as gas and infection. In the same way that the digestive system works best with an even microbial balance, any closed environment such as a home or office is managed best with a healthy balance of benefeactors, whatever those benefactors may be.
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      Jun 10 2011: I am interested in your ideas Emory. It is my understanding that buildings are not closed environments. Microbes enter and leave buildings by occupants that come and go, through windows, and through mechanical ventilation systems. So buildings are constantly "breathing". Our preliminary data through the BioBE Center suggests that the density of airborne bacteria is relatively constant (~1 million per cubic meter of air), regardless of whether the building is naturally or mechanically ventilated. What does change, however, is the composition of the microbes.

      Do you have ideas about what might lead to an unusually high density of microbes within buildings?

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