Whether we’re at home, at the office, or somewhere in between, most of us spend the majority of our time indoors. And, though we may not realize it, indoor environments can be as varied and complex as outdoor ecosystems: Everything from furniture and lighting to air quality and temperature can have a potential impact on our health.
That’s why the Mayo Clinic has created the Well Living Lab to study indoor health. The lab is designed to look like a run-of-the-mill office, but it’s outfitted with sensors that can track everything from the posture of test subjects to the microbial makeup of the space.
It’s also modular, which means all of the walls, furniture, lighting, and even plumbing systems can be swapped out at any time. Though the lab prototype is designed to look like a typical office, it can be re-outfitted to mimic a variety of different professional and residential spaces.
In order to build the lab, the Mayo Clinic has teamed up with Delos Ventures, which researches and consults on how to make homes and offices healthier. Rich Macary, the president of Delos, told WIRED that while scientists have studied indoor health before, their research is often siloed—they’ll study the effects of lighting on health, for instance, but won’t necessarily consider temperature or humidity. “If we drop the temperature two or three or four degrees before you go to sleep, are we effectively helping send a signal to the body that is stronger or weaker than a light-cue?” Macary asks.
By contrast, the Well Living Lab will take a holistic approach, considering multiple variables in tandem. The goal is to provide a space not only for medical research, but for companies who want to test out the health impact of their products. According to WIRED, the ultimate idea is to help identify the design principles that foster healthy living, by asking questions like, "What if you could lose weight by changing your office furniture?” or “What if your walls and ceilings could eliminate VOCs so you could breathe easier?”