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As we grow to better understand the microorganisms in built environments – and what dynamics support their survival – we will be able to design and engineer buildings for better health.

Our built environments matter. Research shows that 85% of our time is spent indoors, and we are the main source of bacteria in indoor environments. Some of the bacteria and viruses sourced from humans are pathogenic – they can cause disease.

Not all microorganisms are bad for us. In fact, only about 1% of known microbial species are harmful. It’s true that that’s not the full picture, given that microbiologists have only been able to define an estimated 1% of the potential microorganisms out there. Nevertheless, the 1% of the known 1% enable infectious diseases that kill an estimated 16 million people a year.

Along with urbanisation and population growth comes densification and increasing time spent indoors. By 2018, according to the United Nations, 55% of the world resided in urban environments – towns and cities. By 2050, it’s predicted it will be 68%. Africa is expected to see a 300% increase in urbanisation over the next 40 years.

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