ROCHESTER, Minn. — The Well Living Lab, a collaborative project of the Mayo Clinic and building design company Delos, after a year of operation, is now seeking third parties to conduct research at the unique facility.

The lab is designed to allow for flexible research on how indoor conditions affect health, and a tour of the lab as part of the Mayo-affiliated Transform conference highlighted the many ways the space could be used for population health purposes.

The 7,500-square-foot lab offers the chance to study people in such places as an office environment, a homelike space — including while they sleep — and eventually inpatient stays, says Brent Bauer, M.D., medical director.

One of the basic questions to be addressed is “How are we influencing behavior?” Bauer says. And by influencing behavior, he means that researchers can crank up the heat, blast the air conditioner, brighten the room, add glare, and pipe in various background noises.

The initial research being conducted is sort of a test run that began in May in which Mayo employees — coders and transcriptionists — switched their offices temporarily to the Well Living Lab and, while results are not yet available, anecdotally one thing Bauer can say is that there appears to be a gender preference for temperature.

The tour did not include the live research office for obvious privacy protection of the research subjects. We did get to see, though, the simulated living environment, which includes a lot of tracking technology.

The living spaces in the lab resembled a small apartment, as currently configured, though one that includes a camera on the ceiling (left photo) that can see just about everything going on outside of the bathroom, (right photo).


But Bauer says the idea is more to allow checking in on the subjects and not provide reality show-type of watching the subjects, noting that everything has to pass research muster, such as getting the OK from an institutional review board.

Still, the room and even the bed are outfitted with sensors for tracking the research subjects, which definitely creates opportunities for sleep researchers.

The space also can be configured to resemble a single-family home, which could be of great value for at-home monitoring testing for chronically ill patients.

Personally, I’d also like to see some sort of research on hospital noise for patients, as well as the effect of ventilation and on productivity. What would you like to see researched? Tell us below or tweet to @HHNmag or @pgbarr