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Mass Timber Products: Species, Coatings, and RH Affect on Microbial Community

Funded by USDA: Agricultural Research Service 

One of the advantages of mass timber buildings is the inherent biophilic nature of expressed wood structure. Wood is a porous, natural material that can foster microbes on its surfaces. Many of these are structurally non-destructive and potentially beneficial to occupants which together shape the building’s microbiome to have a non-visual impact on the wellness of occupants. However, building surfaces are potentially also repositories for human-associated microbes, some of which could cause illness. The properties of interior surfaces and their impact on indoor air are important factors to consider affecting the longevity of hazardous bacteria, fungi and viruses in buildings and overall human immune system health. The use of natural materials, such as wood, might be an important strategy to reduce the spread of disease indoor by fostering beneficial microbes while also inactivating pathogens (through selective antimicrobial qualities) and support of human mental health (biophellia) and immune systems (humidity buffering). 

This work will be done with two research groups centered at the University of Oregon (UO) and Oregon State University (OSU) and is expected to identify the impacts, if any, of common sealants for mass timber elements on building microbiomes. Additionally, it will identify the impacts of wood species on surface and building microbiome. These data will have implications for CLT fabrication choices regarding building health and sanitation.