Spatial and temporal variations in indoor environmental conditions, human occupancy, and operational characteristics in a new hospital building

PLoS One. 2015 Mar 2;10(3):e0118207. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0118207. eCollection 2015.


The dynamics of indoor environmental conditions, human occupancy, and operational characteristics of buildings influence human comfort and indoor environmental quality, including the survival and progression of microbial communities. A suite of continuous, long-term environmental and operational parameters were measured in ten patient rooms and two nurse stations in a new hospital building in Chicago, IL to characterize the indoor environment in which microbial samples were taken for the Hospital Microbiome Project. Measurements included environmental conditions (indoor dry-bulb temperature, relative humidity, humidity ratio, and illuminance) in the patient rooms and nurse stations; differential pressure between the patient rooms and hallways; surrogate measures for human occupancy and activity in the patient rooms using both indoor air CO2 concentrations and infrared doorway beam-break counters; and outdoor air fractions in the heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning systems serving the sampled spaces. Measurements were made at 5-minute intervals over consecutive days for nearly one year, providing a total of ∼8×106 data points. Indoor temperature, illuminance, and human occupancy/activity were all weakly correlated between rooms, while relative humidity, humidity ratio, and outdoor air fractions showed strong temporal (seasonal) patterns and strong spatial correlations between rooms. Differential pressure measurements confirmed that all patient rooms were operated at neutral pressure. The patient rooms averaged about 100 combined entrances and exits per day, which suggests they were relatively lightly occupied compared to higher traffic environments (e.g., retail buildings) and more similar to lower traffic office environments. There were also clear differences in several environmental parameters before and after the hospital was occupied with patients and staff. Characterizing and understanding factors that influence these building dynamics is vital for hospital environments, where they can impact patient health and the survival and spread of healthcare associated infections.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollution, Indoor / prevention & control
  • Carbon Dioxide / analysis
  • Environmental Microbiology
  • Environmental Monitoring*
  • Hospitals / standards*
  • Humans
  • Humidity
  • Temperature
  • Ventilation


  • Carbon Dioxide

Grant support

This work was funded by a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation's program on the Microbiology of the Built Environment (Grant No. 2012-10-04): Tiffanie Ramos was also supported by a Starr-Fieldhouse Research Fellowship. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.