Healthy Buildings, Healthy People

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Harvard strengthens ‘living laboratory’ to help mitigate climate impact

Harvard Gazette, October 6, 2016

Healthy buildings and clean air keep people healthy.

That simple premise is driving a series of studies being conducted by Harvard researchers, some of which have gathered insights from University dorms and office buildings. It is part of a multiyear partnership between the Office for Sustainability and the T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s Center for Health and the Global Environment to use campus spaces to inform public health research and apply the findings in capital projects and renovations.

This partnership and another involving faculty and students working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are being hailed as models for the type of collaborative work that the University wants to stimulate as it launches a reinvigorated “campus as a living laboratory” initiative. The effort will support projects that use the campus as a test site for developing solutions that enhance well-being and mitigate climate impact, or help neighboring communities tackle these problems. The outcomes will be specifically designed for sharing at local, regional, and global levels.

The initiative announced today includes two new, fully funded projects:

The Campus Sustainability Innovation Fund (CSIF) will provide funding for research assistantships and independent research projects that tackle real-world challenges on campus or in the community, and lead to the practical application of emerging technologies or strategies that can be used to inform the University’s implementation of its five-year Sustainability Plan.

Projects supported by the CSIF must have an identified faculty sponsor and map directly to one of the goals, standards, or commitments in Harvard’s Sustainability Plan. Special consideration will be given to projects that take advantage of the power of multidisciplinary discovery or that focus on climate change or health and well-being. A Climate Change Solutions Fund Faust established to provide grants to faculty research exploring low-carbon innovations already gives special consideration to projects that propose using the campus as a living laboratory.

“The University’s innovation ecosystem is well prepared to help envision and support the creation of the tools, technologies, and solutions needed to act on climate change and enhance public health, and these new programs will only help accelerate those efforts,” said Jodi Goldstein, Bruce and Bridgitt Evans Managing Director at the Harvard Innovation Labs.

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