Building hygiene and material pathology

If materials or structures are infested by undesired microbial growth, a detailed microbiological and eco-physiological appraisal and diagnosis is performed. The resulting taxonomic determination relies on a combination of conventional and molecular biological methods by help of a unique set of cultures taken from microorganisms that affect materials, structural components and interior spaces. In this context, work is also carried out on concepts for resisting, preventing and managing undesired microbial contamination. Further attention is directed at microbial safety and hygiene in problem scenarios affecting interior spaces, such as water damage, and in terms of health risks triggered, for example, by biogenic aerosols, endotoxins or mycotoxins. Alongside solid phase materials, such as building materials and their surfaces, also liquid and gas phases are characterized in terms of their microbiological properties, e.g. water treatment plants (water-soil-air diagnostics).

Ecology, biotechnology

The Biology working group deals with the organismal ecology within the built environment. Focusing not just on negative effects, we also explore potential benefits of the various microbiomes that people are directly exposed to. Extensive ecotoxicology test facilities are available to characterize the ecological effects (ecotoxicology) of building materials – e.g. by analysing run-off water. Developing and improving biotechnological techniques – which are increasingly used in and around constructed spaces – is also supported by our “living database” of building relevant microorganisms. Facilities set up for aerobic and anaerobic laboratory fermentation processes allow the investigation of monitoring systems in order to improve systems control of industrial plants or bio-fermentation recycling processes.

Test methods, isopleth areas

A wide range of biological tests are conducted to determine the microbial and hygiene characteristics of materials according to official standards, customers’ requirements or proprietary methods. A special test setup is used to characterize materials and material composites according to the isopleth system, and to define their levels of natural resistance. Outdoor exposure testing is complemented by rapid testing methods we develop and apply. New construction approaches that make use of sustainable raw materials and structures have led to work on biological issues such as bio-composites. Attention is also given to smart materials such as self-cleaning surfaces, phase-transition energy-buffered coatings, targeted radiation reflection, and demand-controlled release of substances and their impact on microorganisms, etc. Concepts in the sense of system bionics are currently developed and investigated.