Self-Designed Project: Sustainable Use of Materials

A CCNY instructor who practices in the field of sustainable materials would be happy to serve as capstone project advisor for a team that wishes to self-design a project that would investigate one of the following topic areas. Any teams wishing to pursue one of these options would be asked to flesh out the basic parameters of the self-designed project by the end of the Fall 2018 semester, in consultation with the potential supervisor.

A.  Reducing the Use of Toxic Materials in Homes and Public Spaces

Organizations such as WEACT,, have done interesting work relating to preventing the use of toxic materials—for example in their Healthy Homes initiative and related work. A capstone project could build upon such work with further research into preventing the use of toxic materials in either homes or public spaces.  Perhaps there is a way to investigate the presence and effects of lesser known but very toxic chemicals used in building products.  A project in this area could be designed in various ways, to pursue various research directions. The team could potentially partner with WEACT, an organization that has already done a great deal of work in this area.

B. Fence-line Communities: Effects on Health of Humans and Ecosystems

Fence-line communities are defined as neighborhoods directly adjacent to factories, power plants, or other polluting infrastructures. There are several fence-line communities in New York City, and significant ones in nearby New Jersey. The particular vulnerability of fence-line communities due to their proximity to actual or potential sources of pollution gives rise to questions of environmental justice and equity. In an era of climate change and unpredictability, these concerns are amplified, given that damages due to flooding and/or excessive heating can have particularly harmful effects on the local fence-line communities. A project in this area would explore these issues in the context of an actual fence-line community in greater New York City region.

C.  Materials for More Resilient Urban Buildings

New York and other coastal cities can expect to experience extreme weather events and gradually rising sea levels during the coming decades. Structures near the coastal edges are likely to sustain intermittent stress and damage. This provides an opportunity to consider the types of building materials that are most suited to (i) rehabilitation of damaged structures; and (ii) construction of new buildings in the vulnerable coastal areas. The challenge is to develop a methodology to determine what features of materials would be most needed in specific site conditions including: durability in the face of prolonged submergence in fresh/salt water; resistance to damage from mold and/or insects; non-toxicity when dissolved in water or reduced to rubble; etc.