Lab focused on healthy indoor spaces to open in September

A new lab for testing how to make indoor spaces healthier is expected to open in downtown Rochester in September and start experiments by the end of the year.

The Well Living Lab , a collaboration between Mayo Clinic and New York City-based Delos Living , is under construction on the third floor of the Minnesota Biobusiness Center. The new lab will test and help develop products and services to make buildings healthier and validate Delos' new Well Building certification.

"The Well Living Lab is going to be a wonderful, first of its kind, spot to actually validate solutions and technologies for improving health in the indoor environment," said Peter Scialla, partner and chief operating officer of Delos. "I don't think there is anything out there that can compare in vision to this."

A Well Building certification would be comparable to the "green" standard of LEED or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. The LEED standard, introduced in 2000 by non-profit U.S. Green Building Council , has quickly grown to be a prominent part of the construction industry. The Green Building Council reported revenue of $74 million in 2013.

The city of Rochester is leasing the 7,200-square-foot space for the Well Living Lab for $18 per square foot, increasing to $20 in the fifth year of the contract. The city is giving Delos "a fit up allowance" of $10 per square foot for the lab, which is being created on the third floor of the city's Minnesota Biobusiness Center.


The idea for the project came two years ago during  Transform , the annual conference hosted by Mayo Clinic's Center for Innovation.

"Then, the concept was first announced one year ago at Transform," said Barbara Spurrier, the director of the Center for Innovation. "Now we'll unveil the finished lab at this year's Transform in September."

Crews are creating a flexible laboratory designed to mimic everything from infant bedrooms to office space to hotel rooms and other living areas.

"It's appropriate for anything with four walls and a roof," Scialla said of the lab.

The mock bedrooms and kitchens will be used to test devices like lighting controls that simulate the movement of the sun to keep people's circadian rhythms in sync while indoors. Scialla said the human body reacts to most indoor lighting like it is early morning, even if it is evening. He said some researchers have posited that lighting messes up sleep cycles and might even cause cancer.

Other examples of Well Building aspects include air and water purification devices, noise-controlling sound baffles, standing desks, sensors and other features.

If everything goes according to plan, Scialla and Spurrier hope to be able to introduce human subjects into the lab tests by the first quarter of 2016.

"This is about really connecting with people in their daily lives, where they live, work and play," Spurrier said.


The financial core of this project is selling a validated Well Building certification to developers to use when marketing the property. The intellectual property tested and created in the lab also has the potential to be valuable. Scialla said Delos and Mayo Clinic may invest in some of the products developed in the lab.

Spurrier explained that the lab will be a true collaboration between Delos, Mayo Clinic, the Center for Innovation and Mayo Clinic Ventures. The co-directors will be Dr. Brent A. Bauer of Mayo Clinic and Dana Pillai of Delos. The staff of six to eight researchers will hired by both Mayo and Delos. A steering committee with Mayo Clinic and Delos representatives will guide the lab's direction.

"We are also in discussions with possible corporate partners with a substantial amount of interest and excitement," he said.

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