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Terrascope Students Use MIT Campus as Living Lab for Sustainability Planning

Resilient Building Systems tour

Taya Dixon, from the Office of Capital Renewal Planning, and Zachary Lamb, a graduate student in Course 11 and former MIT Office of Sustainability student fellow, lead the Resilient Building Systems tour. Credit: Christopher Kinsley

This year, students in the Terrascope first-year learning community are developing plans for adaptation to climate change, and they are using MIT’s own campus as a living laboratory. Their term-long assignment is to create adaptation plans for MIT and for southern Bangladesh, and to use their plans for these sites to develop recommendations for other areas around the world.

The MIT Office of Sustainability has been a key partner in this project, providing access to information and expertise and even developing a Campus Resiliency Crawl, a series of guided tours conducted specifically for Terrascope’s fall class, 12.000 Solving Complex Problems, and covering four separate topics: buildings, site, utilities and community.

Afterwards, students reflected on the tour experience:

“Our guides were pointing out things that I pass by almost every other day that I didn’t realize were created with sustainability and preventing flooding in mind.”

“The tour opened my eyes to a whole other aspect of disaster preparation…. having the population at risk prepared is equally as important as having their buildings prepared.”

“I didn’t realize how many different roles trees played on campus, and I didn’t realize how important the jobs were either.”

“When raising awareness for climate change on campus, we should present everything as ‘We can fix this!’ rather than ‘We are doomed!’”

“The idea that we could be having a real impact on this community is absolutely incredible, and I’m really excited to dive into our research and organization on the project.”

The students will present their plan and defend it in front of a panel of experts on December 6 at 7 pm in Room 10-250. The public is warmly invited, and the event will also be live-streamed.

Next semester, Terrascopers will design and prototype climate-adaptation devices in Subject 2.00C/1.016/EC.745 Design for Complex Environmental Issues, and they will create a general-interest radio program on the topic in Subject SP.360 Terrascope Radio.

Ari Epstein, Terrascope First Year Learning Community