At MIT, it’s not uncommon to see groups navigating campus with smartphones and measuring devices in hand, using the Institute as a testing ground for research. For a week this summer, more than a dozen students, researchers and professors, along with an altimeter, could be seen doing just that as they walked through MIT to measure landmarks. entry into campus buildings – including windows, doors, and vents – known as the porosity of a building.
Why measure the porosity of campus buildings?
The group was part of MIT Porosity Hunt, a citizen science effort that uses the MIT campus as a venue to test emerging methodologies, instruments and data collection processes to better understand the potential impact of climate change. – and in particular storm scenarios. resulting – on infrastructure. The Hunt is a collaborative effort between the Urban Risk Lab, led by Director and Associate Professor of Architecture and Urbanism Miho Mazereeuw, and the Office of Sustainability (MITOS), aimed at supporting an MIT resilient to the impacts of climate change, including floods and extreme heat events. For three days, members of the hunt cataloged openings in dozens of buildings on campus to better support flood mapping and resilience planning at MIT.
For Mazereeuw, the data collection project is at the heart of his work with the Urban Risk Lab and as a member of MIT’s Climate Resiliency Committee. While the mission of the laboratory is to “develop methods, prototypes and technologies to integrate risk reduction and preparedness into the design of cities and regions to increase resilience”, the climate resilience committee – composed faculty, staff and researchers – focuses on assessing, planning and operationalizing a climate resilient MIT. The lab and committee’s work is fed into MIT’s recently released Climate Resilience Dashboard, a visualization tool that allows users to understand the potential impacts of flooding from a number of storm scenarios and to guide decision making.
While the launch of the tool signaled a big step forward in resilience planning at MIT, some, including Mazereeuw, saw an opportunity for improvement. Working with Ken Strzepek, MITOS faculty member and researcher at the MIT Center for Global Change Science who was also an integral part of this work, Mazereeuw was surprised to learn that even the most sophisticated flood modeling treats buildings as solid blocks. . All buildings being treated in the same way, despite variable porosities, the dashboard is limited in certain flood scenario analyzes. To address this issue, Mazereeuw and others set to work to populate that extra layer of data, with citizen science efforts being a key driver of this work. “Understanding the porosity of the building is important to understanding how much water actually enters the building in these scenarios,” she explains.
Although surveyors are often used to collect and map this type of information, Mazereeuw wanted to leverage the MIT community to quickly collect data while engaging students, faculty, and researchers as gatekeepers of resilience. for the campus. “It is important for projects like this to encourage awareness,” she explains. “Usually when something fails we notice it, but otherwise we don’t. With climate change causing more uncertainty in the scale and intensity of events, we need everyone to be more aware and help us understand things like vulnerabilities. “
To do this, MITOS and the Urban Risk Lab contacted more than a dozen students, joined by professors, staff and researchers, to map the porosity of 31 campus buildings linked by basements. . The buildings were chosen based on this connectivity, knowing that water that reaches one basement could potentially flow to another.
Urban Risk Lab researchers Aditya Barve and Mayank Ojha assisted the group in their efforts by creating a mapping application and chatbot to ensure consistency of reporting and ease of use. Each team member used the app to find buildings where porosity points needed to be mapped. When the teams arrived outside the building, they entered their location into the app, which then triggered the Facebook and LINE powered chatbot on their phones. There, the students were guided through the measurement of the aperture, adjusting the elevation to match the Cambridge City Baseline Reference System and, based on observable features, noting the materials and the openness quality on a scale of one to three. In just three days, the team, which included Mazereeuw herself, mapped 1,030 porosity points that will aid in planning and preparing for resilience on campus in several ways.
“The objective is to understand the different heights of flood water around the porous areas of the campus,” explains Mazereeuw. “But the impact can be different depending on the space. We hope this data can inform safety as well as understand potential damage to research or disruption to campus operations due to future storms. “
Porosity data collection is complete for this cycle – future hunts will likely be conducted to confirm and converge the data – but a team member’s work continues at the MIT basement level. Katarina Boukin, a doctoral student in civil and environmental engineering and a doctoral student at MITOS, focused on methods of collecting data under MIT buildings to understand how they would be impacted if floodwaters entered. “We have a number of connected basements on campus, and if one of them gets flooded, they all risk it,” says Boukin. “By looking at absolute elevation and absolute porosity, we connect the outdoors to the indoors and track how much and where the water can flow. With the added data from Porosity Hunt, a full picture of vulnerabilities and resilience opportunities can be shared.
It’s by synthesizing much of this data that Eva Then ’21 comes into play. She was then one of the students who worked on data point capture over the three days and now works in ArcGIS – a online mapping software that also powers the Climate Resilience Dashboard – to process and visualize the data collected. Once completed, the data will be fed into the campus flood model to increase the accuracy of projections on the Climate Resilience Dashboard. “Over the next several decades, the model will serve as an adaptive planning tool to make the campus safe and resilient in the face of increasing climate risks,” Then said.
For Mazereeuw, the Porosity Hunt and the data collected also serve as a scalability study, providing valuable insight into how similar research efforts inspired by MIT’s benchmark approach might be undertaken and inform future developments. policies beyond MIT. She also hopes it will inspire students to start their own hunts in the future, becoming resilience stewards for their campuses and dorms. “Going through the measurement and documentation lights up and shows a new set of glasses – you see the campus and the buildings in a slightly different way,” she says.
Mazereeuw also notes that recent devastating floods across the country, including those resulting from Hurricane Ida, have placed particular emphasis on this work. “The loss of life in this storm, including those that died when water flooded their basement homes, underscores the urgency of this type of research, planning and preparation.”