Is your office building making you sick?
If you're reading this at work, take a look around.
Is there a window near you? And if there is, can you open it?
Or is your building sealed, like most contemporary office towers, warehouses, big box stores and condos?
Now look at the furniture. What's your table made of? Some kind of polymer that's supposed to look like wood?
How about your flooring?
Sealed buildings and the technology and furniture that are in them are about more than just aesthetics.
Your own body is a microbiome too.
The workplace is the same thing, just on a larger scale.
Some of that bacteria is good for you. Some is bad.
And a healthy biome in a healthy building makes for a healthy you!
Robin Guenther is one of the world's foremost experts on healthy buildings.
And that's because humans haven't been living in sealed buildings for very long. Indeed, we're pretty much the first generation to have lived in these types of building in human history.
North Americans spend an average of 90 per cent of our time indoors
And not only that, "as a species, we're really the first generation to have spent 90 per cent of our lives in these types of buildings," Robin says.
Add to that the six per cent of time we spend in cars, and we aren't really spending much time in natural environments at all.
It's the first time any research has been done on what you and I might be absorbing from our homes, workplaces and recreation centres.
Although mechanical ventilation -- the way air is artificially circulated through buildings as a way to mimic open windows -- is now very good, Robin says we still know very little about the dangers of the chemicals and materials used in walls, carpets, flooring and office equipment.
However, the good news is that architects and builders are becoming more aware of the possible effects of polymer-based substances, and there is a move towards "greener" buildings, that use sustainable materials.
It's a modern health facility that is a hospital, and also treats people with developmental disabilities.
It's laid out like a farm, and even grows its own food.
Robin adds that newer building designs are incorporating more exterior spaces -- from terraces to entire floors -- that are designed to get people outside.