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Emily Anthes

The Great Indoors

The Surprising Science of How Buildings Shape Our Behavior, Health, and Happiness

Scientific American 2020

New Books in ArchitectureNew Books in Arts & LettersNew Books in Science & TechnologyNew Books in Science, Technology, and Society September 9, 2020 Bryan Toepfer

Modern humans are an indoor species. We spend 90 percent of our time inside, shuttling between homes and offices, schools and stores, restaurants and...

Modern humans are an indoor species. We spend 90 percent of our time inside, shuttling between homes and offices, schools and stores, restaurants and gyms. And yet, in many ways, the indoor world remains unexplored territory. For all the time we spend inside buildings, we rarely stop to consider: How do these spaces affect our mental and physical well-being? Our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors? Our productivity, performance, and relationships?

In this wide-ranging, character-driven book, science journalist Emily Anthes takes us on an adventure into the buildings in which we spend our days, exploring the profound, and sometimes unexpected, ways that they shape our lives. Drawing on cutting-edge research, she probes the pain-killing power of a well-placed window and examines how the right office layout can expand our social networks. She investigates how room temperature regulates our cognitive performance, how the microbes hiding in our homes influence our immune systems, and how cafeteria design affects what―and how much―we eat.

Along the way, Anthes takes readers into an operating room designed to minimize medical errors, a school designed to boost students’ physical fitness, and a prison designed to support inmates’ psychological needs. And she previews the homes of the future, from the high-tech houses that could monitor our health to the 3D-printed structures that might allow us to live on the Moon.

The Great Indoors: The Surprising Science of How Buildings Shape Our Behavior, Health, and Happiness provides a fresh perspective on our most familiar surroundings and a new understanding of the power of architecture and design. It’s an argument for thoughtful interventions into the built environment and a story about how to build a better world―one room at a time.

Emily Anthes is a freelance science journalist. Her work has appeared in Seed, Scientific American Mind, Discover, Slate, Good, New York, and the Boston Globe.


Bryan Toepfer, AIA, NCARB, CAPM is the Principal Architect for TOEPFER Architecture, PLLC, an Architecture firm specializing in Residential Architecture and Virtual Reality. He has authored two books, “Contractors CANNOT Build Your House,” and “Six Months Now, ARCHITECT for Life.” He is a professor at Alfred State College and the Director of Education for the AIA Rochester Board of Directors. Always eager to help anyone understand the world of Architecture, he can be reached by sending an email to btoepfer@toepferarchitecture.