Building Resilient Environments for Air and Total Health

The Big Question 

What if indoor air was always safe and healthy?

The Problem

Most people spend more than 90% of their lives inside buildings, and the air we breathe indoors plays a critical role in shaping human health, productivity, well-being, and learning. Respiratory infections like the flu and pneumonia are a leading cause of death in the U.S. and globally, and the risk of airborne infection transmission is greater indoors. Asthma and allergies, which can significantly impact quality of life, are also associated with poor indoor air quality.

The Current State

Over a century ago, water treatment and sewer systems revolutionized public health, but modern buildings still need similar systems for monitoring and improving indoor air quality. The air in the places we live, work, and learn can contain unhealthy levels of viruses, bacteria, fungi, pollen and other bioaerosols. Smart building systems allow for some real-time adjustments, mostly related to occupant comfort and energy use, but they don’t provide air quality monitoring or changes related to occupant health.

The Challenge

The Building Resilient Environments for Air and Total HEalth (BREATHE) program envisions smart building systems that monitor and respond to changes in indoor air quality. Green buildings balance thermal comfort and energy efficiency and BREATHE aims to employ similar approaches to handle indoor pathogen and allergen exposure. To succeed, BREATHE will need to develop tools to sense airborne bioaerosols, assess indoor air quality exposure risk, and deliver cost-effective building interventions to improve human health.

The Solution

BREATHE aims to revolutionize public health by advancing our ability to monitor and improve indoor air quality and forecast emerging health threats. To create a scalable system capable of monitoring and managing indoor air, BREATHE will engage performers across a range of expertise, including molecular diagnostic testing and biosensor instrument developers, data analysts, risk assessment software developers, property management firms, and others. The program has three technical areas: creating indoor biosensors, developing respiratory risk assessment software, and installing systems in buildings to cost-effectively deliver healthier air when needed.


With the increased attention on indoor air quality and technological improvements in environmental surveillance, ARPA-H can bring together researchers and engineers to collaborate and accelerate an integrated solution for healthy indoor air. 


Questions & Answers


Ask a question


Uniquely, BREATHE requires performers to form teams to achieve the goals of the program. Teams should aim to capture a breadth of technologies, methodologies, and other relevant aspects within each Technical Area. To facilitate this process, we have created a teaming page where prospective performers can share their profiles and learn more about other interested parties.

BREATHE Teaming Profiles