In the Future, the Construction Products Are “Healthier”

A collaboration between Harvard and Google has been made to combat harmful construction chemicals.


The field of construction is basically an application of different kinds of chemistry: from the production of reinforcement steel bars to the mixing of aggregates, water, and cement to form concrete. While nothing is still specified about which chemicals are harmful in these processes, a team between Harvard and Google is seeking to identify these harmful chemical and eventually develop tools and alternative solutions.

Led by Gina McCarthy, previously the director of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the project is part of Harvard’s Center for Climate, Health and the Global Environment. According to Chemistry World, it aims to develop public tools and resources that use the latest scientific research to inform decision-making by large institutions and manufacturers about new construction projects and renovations. The team hopes that other organizations will replicate the lessons to be learned in this project.

Joe Allen, co-director of the environment center and Harvard’s healthy buildings programme, said that his team at Harvard wants to improve the health performance of the products that go into the buildings on their campus. Fortunately, tech firm Google is on the same boat hence the partnership.


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“The goal is to come up with solutions to implement the science and then to scale those beyond Harvard,” he told Chemistry World. “This is very much an in the weeds, practical effort at driving the research into practice.”

Previously, Harvard researchers have worked on the health impacts of flame retardant or stain repellent chemicals but the findings were practically ignored as they have not been minded by the university. “That science was showing up in the peer-reviewed journals, but it wasn’t permeating into the purchasing and decision-making we were doing at our own campus,” Allen said.

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To prove that their new research will work, the Harvard researchers have decided to use its own campus as a “living laboratory” and demonstrate what they have cooked with Google, among other projects. Focusing on construction, they will make sure that the reduced exposure to unsafe compounds does not affect costs or timelines in the field.

Particularly, the collaboration will analyze the air and dust in the spaces in Harvard that are related to the work carried out. Still, overall, the mission is to reduce the use of chemicals that are associated with long-term human health and environmental problems.

Source: Chemistry World

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In the Future, the Construction Products Are “Healthier”

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