Research Portal

May 18, 2023

Population Health Initiative awards multiple College of Built Environments teams planning grants

The Population Health Initiative announced 12 climate change planning grant awardees. Of those 12 teams, 4 include College of Built Environments researchers. Descriptions of their projects are below.

Read the CBE News story here.


Linking Climate Adaptation and Public Health Outcomes in Yavatmal, Maharashtra

Sameer H. Shah, Environmental and Forest Sciences
Celina Balderas Guzmán, Landscape Architecture
Pronoy Rai, Portland State University

Project abstract
This proposal collects primary interview data with landed and landless agriculturalists in Yavatmal district in Maharashtra state in India to identify emerging public health risks associated with climate adaptation activities. In Yavatmal, agricultural livelihoods are impacted by heat stress and precipitation variability. To-date, climate adaptation in agricultural contexts is commonly viewed as bounded to single decision-makers, without serious consideration as to how adaptive decision-making is networked or linked in ways that shape public health outcomes. For example, efficient irrigation practices or changes in crop variants may affect agricultural labor prospects for landless peoples, shaping their adaptive decision-making, and the public health risks they encounter.

Approximately 30 interviews will be conducted across the landholding spectrum (large landowning farmers to landless agricultural laborers) to i) identify current livelihood adaptation strategies; ii) understand linkages between adaptive decision-making; and iii) assess the public health outcomes associated with such decisions. This preliminary data will establish a baseline for developing more specific research questions to be explored in later funding calls. Ultimately, we expect to develop recommendations for regional and international climate policy that stress how the interrelationships embedded in climate adaptation decision-making affect public health outcomes.


Sustainable Materials for Structural Applications

Eleftheria Roumeli, Materials Science & Engineering
Tomás Méndez Echenagucia, Architecture
Kate Simonen, Architecture

Project abstract
Using this planning grant, we aim to (1) conduct preliminary collaborative experiments, (2) identify relevant calls for funding, and (3) prepare our first joint proposal on sustainable materials for applications in building structures.

First, we will identify an architectural application, such as funicular flooring designed by the Méndez Echenagucia lab for reduced carbon emissions. We will fabricate a preliminary set of green cements (biomass-containing cement formulations) and test their mechanical properties in the Roumeli lab. The methods for estimating the environmental impacts of the novel material will be defined (Simonen lab). This will be the first step in the collaboration between all three PIs. The first results of the materials fabrication, mechanical testing, modeling and components of LCA will serve as a foundation for our first joint proposal.

Our multidisciplinary approach on sustainable structural materials will bridge our individual expertise and build a technically strong and innovative foundation to make meaningful contributions in the field of sustainable structures. Our proposed team’s lack of prior collaboration and joint work will ensure that we bring fresh perspectives and ideas to the table, enabling us to achieve impactful results. We envision this to be the first attempt in a long-lived collaborative effort.


Conduct Site Visits in Preparation for the Development of an Environmental Evaluation Framework for Community Land Trusts

Vince Wang, Real Estate
Dylan Stevenson, Urban Design and Planning
Sandy Bishop, Lopez Community Land Trust
Jackie Keogh, Kor Community Land Trust

Project abstract
Community land trusts (CLTs) are a local nonprofit model that provides permanently affordable housing and other lasting community assets. Because of its unique community-based governance structure, it holds great transformative potential to address the compounding risks of affordable housing and climate change crises.

We propose to conduct a pre-interview site visit to Kor CLT in Bend, Oregon and Lopez CLT in Lopez Island, Washington, national CLT leaders in addressing climate-related challenges. During the visit in August 2023, we plan to familiarize ourselves with both CLTs’ environment-related initiatives, document site-specific contextual factors impacting their climate change goals, and identify potential informants for future interviews.

This project will contribute toward refining our study approach to apply for a PHI grant this fall in partnership with Kor CLT and Lopez CLT. In the next-level study, we propose – for the first time – to develop a CLT-specific environmental evaluation framework through interviews with key stakeholders to help CLTs build on their existing data collection tool in monitoring and assessing their environmental efforts. We further plan to expand the use of this tool in CLTs across Washington, which collectively are known as the nation’s environmental CLT leaders.


DecarbCityTwin: A Platform for Equitable Decarbonization of the Built Environment

Narjes Abbasabadi, Architecture
Carrie Sturts Dossick, Construction Management
Daniel Kirschen, Electrical & Computer Engineering
Kate Simonen, Architecture
Christopher Meek, Architecture
Mehdi Ashayeri, Southern Illinois University
Lylianna Allala, City of Seattle’s Office of Sustainability & Environment
Ani Krishnan, City of Seattle’s Office of Sustainability & Environment
Nicole Ballinger, City of Seattle’s Office of Sustainability & Environment

Project abstract
The goal of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050 requires cities worldwide to reduce carbon emissions from buildings, which is crucial. Achieving equitable decarbonization is also essential, as marginalized communities are disproportionately affected by energy inefficiency, air pollution exposure, and energy and health burdens. However, current research in this field is hindered by various gaps, including a lack of data, a whole systems approach, and a universal and accessible platform for data integration, interoperability, and multi-domain exploration.

This project seeks to address these gaps by developing a prototype of the DecarbCityTwin platform, which aims to facilitate equitable decarbonization of the built environment. The project will enhance the effectiveness of design optimization, retrofit approaches, planning instruments, and policy strategies, while considering equity and the impact on human health and total lifecycle energy and carbon emissions. The framework will use a hybrid physics-based simulation and data-driven approach, incorporating real-world data and leveraging AI, machine learning, knowledge graph, and automation to increase model accuracy, efficiency, and accessibility. The framework and tool will be piloted in Seattle to support local efforts towards just transitions, including Seattle’s Green New Deal and Washington’s 2021 Climate Commitment Act, and will align with the Justice40 federal initiative. The framework’s scalability allows its adoption in other cities, yielding long-term environmental, social, and economic benefits.