Builder Magazine, November 12, 2015
By Jennifer Goodman
Americans spend more than 90 percent of their time indoors—from homes to office or work environments, schools, retail stores, fitness centers, health care facilities, and more—which means exposure to indoor environments is at an all-time high. What many people don’t realize is that these buildings, and everything in them, can affect human health and well-being.
A groundbreaking new facility will aid researchers in studying indoor environments with the aim of creating healthier indoor spaces. The Well Living Lab at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., is the first scientific research center that uses exclusively human-centered research to understand the interaction between health and well-being and indoor environments.
Delos, creator of the Well Building Standard, and the Mayo Clinic partnered to create the 7,500-square-foot project that opened last month. The building is loaded with sensors and other state-of-the-art technologies that simulate realistic living and working environments to allow researchers to study how key elements within these spaces can impact occupants.
Areas to be studied include sleep, performance, stress, fitness, nutrition, and overall well-being. Researchers can easily reconfigure the many spaces to study key elements such as lighting, noise, temperature, and furniture.
Centerbrook Architects and Planners designed the laboratory’s six experimental modules to be completely flexible and modular: walls, floors, ceilings, fixtures, and even plumbing can be removed or reconfigured to mimic the interiors of numerous business, institutional, or residential environments, including hotel rooms, kitchens, open or closed offices, and classrooms.
The space is outfitted with the most advanced sensor technology in the world, allowing Mayo’s researchers in the lab to monitor and observe subjects as they would normally behave. For example, people participating in a sleep study won’t have to be connected to wires and monitors – they will sleep in a normal bed while the sensor-rich environment tracks and records the desired biometric measures.
The Well Living Lab project team plans to generate and publish scientifically rigorous research and reproducible data and positively influence health by improving the products, policies, and building and design practices that govern the way commercial and residential buildings are constructed, according to a release. Research will begin early in 2016.