Book cover of 'Healthy Buildings'
Joseph G. Allen
John D. Macomber

Healthy Buildings

How Indoor Spaces Can Make You Sick―or Keep You Well A New York Times and Fortune Magazine Best Book of the Year

A revised and updated edition of the landmark work the New York Times lauded as “a call to action for every developer, building owner, shareholder, chief executive, manager, teacher, worker and parent to start demanding healthy buildings with cleaner indoor air.”

The world was brought to a standstill by a virus that spreads almost exclusively indoors, revealing a simple but long-ignored truth: your building can make you sick–or keep you well. Updated with the latest research conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic, the new edition of Healthy Buildings provides evidence-based strategies for making buildings the first line of defense against airborne disease. 

Joe Allen and John Macomber dispel the myth that we have to choose between energy-efficient buildings and good indoor air quality. We can—and must—have both. At the center of the great convergence of the green, smart, and safe building movements, healthy buildings are key to business success and vital to the push for more sustainable urbanization that will shape our future.

Where to Buy

A New York Times Book of the Year

A Fortune Book of the Year

An AIA New York Book of the Year

Norman Foster


This book should be essential reading for all who commission, design, manage, and use buildings — indeed anyone who is interested in a healthy environment.

Tara Parker-Pope

New York Times

If we’ve learned anything from the coronavirus pandemic, it’s that clean indoor air is essential to healthy living. But it’s not just about getting rid of viral particles. Dr. Allen has led research showing that poor indoor air quality dulls your brain, dampening creativity and cognitive function… This book is a call to action […] to start demanding healthy buildings with cleaner indoor air.

Jill Lepore

The New Yorker

Allen and Macomber want to establish national standards, and they make a series of precise and persuasive recommendations for everything from insulation and window shades to water filters and vacuum cleaners.

David Z. Morris


This exposé of the widespread under-ventilation and pollution inside modern buildings arrived just as shared indoor space became truly deadly. Though there’s now light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel, these insights and guidelines for improving indoor air quality should play a huge role in post-pandemic reforms.

Marcella Ucci

Buildings & Cities

[A] lucid and passionate outline of why now is the time to acknowledge the huge and unrealized potential for buildings to make a positive contribution to the health and performance of their inhabitants, the economy, society and the planet.

Andrew Robinson


[This] detailed, important study is welcomed by architect Norman Foster. But it speaks to everyone.

Rebecca Henderson

John and Natty McArthur University Professor, Harvard Business School

Healthy Buildings is both hugely important and a great read. By the end it not only completely persuaded me that improving the health of our buildings is a fabulous economic opportunity and something that could change the lives of millions of people—it gave me a very good sense of where to start.

Cristina Gamboa

CEO of the World Green Building Council

Healthy Buildings urges us to shift to a ‘health-first’ mindset in relation to our built environment. Its unique insights help close the knowledge gap around healthy buildings, reveal their important role in global sustainability, and provide practical guidance for our homes, offices, and schools.

Christoph Reinhart

Director of MIT’s Building Technology Program

The engaging conversational style of this comprehensive book makes it an ideal read for any busy building owner or executive who wants to learn about the new science of healthy buildings.

Tom Burton

Chair of the Energy and Sustainability Practice, Mintz

In this new era of ESG responsibility, every CEO must consider our built environment to fully meet stakeholder expectations. Allen and Macomber’s multidisciplinary, accessible approach unlocks the secret to future human health and productivity in the very buildings in which we live and work.

About the Authors

Joseph G. Allen

Joseph G. Allen is Director of Harvard’s Healthy Buildings Program and Associate Professor at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health. A renowned forensic investigator of “sick buildings” and sought-after expert, he has advised the White House, state governments, and leading companies around the world on healthy building strategies. A key voice in communicating the science of COVID transmission to the public and debunking myths on how the virus spread, he has appeared on CBS, CNN, and Bloomberg, and has written many influential pieces for the Washington Post, the New York Times, The Atlantic, and USA Today. He is Chair of The Lancet COVID-19 Commission Task Force on Safe Work, Safe School, and Safe Travel and author of over 80 peer-reviewed scientific papers, including in such journals as JAMA and Science.

John D. Macomber

John D. Macomber is Senior Lecturer at Harvard Business School and a world leader on the financing of resilience. His teaching combines infrastructure finance (including public-private partnerships), economic development and urban planning as well as the impact of new technologies. He is the author of dozens of HBS case studies on infrastructure projects, focusing on office buildings in the United States, housing in India, water management in Mexico, and private sector–led new cities in Asia. He is a member of The Lancet COVID-19 Commission Task Force on Safe Work, Safe School, and Safe Travel.

In The News

Employers Have Been Offering the Wrong Office Amenities

October, 2021

Workplaces need fresh air, not foosball tables and coffee bars.

The Atlantic

What Makes an Office Building “Healthy”

April, 2020

As employees return to offices, the authors suggest a framework companies can deploy to keep people safe without crippling their businesses and our economy, as well as a series of indicators to measure their progress.

Harvard Business Review

Is Staying In Safe?

September, 2020

Indoor life has its dangers, too, but building-design specialists have big plans for us.

The New Yorker

We Need to Improve Indoor Air Quality: Here’s How and Why

June, 2022

Upgrading buildings’ ventilation, filtration and other factors would not only decrease COVID transmission but also improve health and cognitive performance in general.

Scientific American

Healthy buildings can help stop Covid-19 spread and boost worker productivity

November, 2021

Any C-suite executive looking to lure workers back into the office has likely spent more time thinking about indoor air quality and ventilation over the past year-and-a-half than at any other point in their pre-pandemic life.


Better ventilation would create a healthier workplace — but companies have to invest

April, 2022

A growing coalition of epidemiologists and aerosol scientists say that improved ventilation could be a powerful tool against the coronavirus — if businesses are willing to invest the money.

NPR Shots

The office monitor workers will find more common in the Covid era is surveilling the air

November, 2021

Harvard professor Joseph Allen says there’s one safety measure offices can’t overlook. Healthy workspaces rely primarily on the air employees breathe, and research going back years before the pandemic shows that improvements in air ventilation and air quality lead to increased cognitive function and work productivity.


Wash the air, not (just) your hands

May, 2022

A better solution, for Covid and other ailments: improved ventilation — bringing more outside air into buildings and better circulating air. And filtration — cleaning the indoor air. Many, if not enough, schools and businesses have adopted them. And they work in all kinds of buildings, from homeless shelters to high-rises.


New federal ventilation guidelines mark next step in fight against COVID

March, 2022

It’s the first time such a standard has been created at the national level.

ABC News

See JPMorgan Chase’s big bet on the future of the office

April, 2022

Deepak Chopra and Harvard’s Joseph Allen helped shape this 60-story tower.

Fast Company

Is Bad Indoor Air Dulling Your Brain?

September, 2021

While we tend to worry about inhaling viral particles like the coronavirus, new research shows the air quality at work may have subtle effects on cognitive function.

New York Times

Covid gives us a chance to fix indoor air pollution forever

September, 2021

The pandemic taught us the benefits of ventilation in stopping the spread of the virus. But keeping our indoor air clean has plenty of other benefits


The Air Investigator

August, 2021

For Joseph Allen, the pandemic has made the connection between indoor air quality and human health clearer than ever.

Science Magazine

This invisible Covid-19 mitigation measure is finally getting the attention it deserves

April, 2022

Two-plus years into the Covid-19 pandemic, you probably know the basics of protection: vaccines, boosters, proper handwashing and masks. But one of the most powerful tools against the coronavirus is one that experts believe is just starting to get the attention it deserves: ventilation.

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