Steel vs. Concrete
The comprehensive decision making methodology was used to compare two types of building materials,
structural steel and reinforced concrete for use in the superstructure of the East Campus Project building.
This decision impacts the environment and workers during the production of the materials and has a
negligible effect on the buidling users, owners, or managers in the usage phase of the building. The
analysis showed that using structural steel for the building's superstructure produces less environmental
impacts than using concrete in all but one of the impact categories evaluated. These results provide a
strong argument for the use of steel in the superstructure of the East Campus Project. At the same time,
worker health and safety performance in the steel industry appears to be slightly worse (based on rates of
fatal occupational injuries) than in the concrete industry. As with all the case studies, this information
provided here can now be weighed against the fiscal constraints and other considerations facing the East
Campus Project decision-makers.
The assessment of hybrid natural ventilation compared to convential mechanical air-conditioning and
ventilation demonstrated the following primary benefits for the East Campus Project:
- Reduced electricity consumption estimated to be at least 60 MWh annually.
- Reduced power plant emissions estimated to be 200 lbs NOx and 400 lbs SO2 which contribute to
premature mortality, lung and heart disease, forest damage, and reduced visibility.
- Potential for increased health, comfort, and productivity, as evidenced by association of SBS symptoms
with air-conditioning and low ventilation rates, â€œcontrol and quality of airâ€� as the fourth most important
criterion for attracting and retaining tenants (Spengler, 2000), and a strong correlation between access to
operable windows and satisfaction with air movement, ventilation, and air quality (Brager).
- Innovative leadership with a low-risk strategy, as natural ventilation is proven in similar climates in Europe,
analytical techniques are available for proper design, and the hybrid use of mechanical ventilation provides
boosts when needed.
Completion of an initial feasibility study should consider air flow studies and occupant density assessments
based on proposed architecture. When in operation, air quality should be monitored and the natural
ventilation system controlled so as protect the building occupants from exposure to episodes of poor outdoor
Because water is fundamental to all living systems, the starting point for achieving sustainability is the
transformation of water-based technologies. The waters of the Earth maintain in balance all of the chemical
elements of the planet and all its gases. Water is the major regulator of climate. All land-bound life evolved
from this life-giving source. Approximately seventy per cent of the human body is comprised of water. If, as
the Russian biologist Vernadsky claimed, water is life, the quality of water in many ways determines the
quality of life. Now, however, water is becoming the source, not of life, but of illness, debilitation, carcinoma,
There is, however, a way of reversing this seemingly irrevocable dynamic. Living machines, by adopting and
mimicking the strategies of natural systems, have proved extraordinarily effective in detoxifying and restoring
the most severely contaminated waters. Based on the premise that waste is a resource out of place and that
nature handles every form of waste by turning it into a resource, living machines imitate the purifying and
recycling abilities of natural aquatic ecosystems. Powered by sunlight and frequently housed in greenhouse-
like structures, they contain populations of bacteria, algae, microscopic animals, snails, fish, flowers, higher
plants, and trees. Such living machines have proved capable of advanced water treatment without resorting
to the hazardous chemicals used in most existing treatment plants at competitive costs in today's terms.
The East Campus Project has the opportunity to take advantage of this non-toxic, innovative water treatment
The East Campus project faces the dilemma of adaptive reuse vs. demolition. Regarding sustainability,
adaptive reuse has the advantages of avoiding landfill and maintaining use of a building that already has a
large embodied energy content. On the other hand, demolition poses the possibilities of recycling,
construction of a more energy efficient buidling, and redevelopment of green space. If the reasoning for
demolition is to recapture green space or simply to get rid of a building that does not meet its initially
intended use, this architectural analysis concludes that adaptive reuse (AR) may be the preferred option. It is
particularly troubling that MIT is considering the demolition of a massive building made of concrete that is not
yet 40 years old. While the building may not meet MIT's standards for library functioning at the present
moment, its new life could serve a completely different purpose. The main goal of Adaptive Reuse is to
harness the embodied energy in an existing building. Often this means a creative, holistic, long-term
perspective that is open to other opportunities the building could provide. MIT should also consider that,
while the waste handling of demolition and construction waste has been steadily increasing and improving,
much of the discarded material is downcycled rather than recycled. The presented alternative site plan and
volume studies show the possibilities for adaptive reuse for the East Campus Project.