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Explorations in Science and Technology

Pitt Makes It Easier to Be Green


As “green” products appear with increasing regularity, Pitt researchers are reexamining what it means to be environmentally friendly.

For engineering professor Melissa Bilec, it means revisiting the notion of a building’s “life cycle assessment,” or the environmental impact of a building from construction to operation to demolition to disposal. "Right now, once people understand life cycle assessment, they agree it's a good approach," Bilec told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "but the data to make it practical to use for most buildings is lacking," she said. In 2010, Bilec and her team received a grant from the National Science Foundation to expand the way life cycle assessments are conducted, and to develop a clearer sense of the environmental impact of buildings.

Professor Amy Landis works with plastics. In 2011, her research showed that contrary to popular opinion, plant-based plastics aren’t necessarily more environmentally friendly than petroleum-based ones.

Professors Landis and Bilec are challenging conventional environmental wisdom to work toward a more environmentally friendly future. Their work is being put into practice in several ways at Pitt, from new sustainable student housing to the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation, one of the nation's first academic centers for studying green construction and design.