Sustainability Research

Students work on projects at a 2017 Rev Hardware Accelerator.Sustainability Research

Cornell is proud to integrate sustainability research on campus with 30% of the institution’s faculty and staff researchers engaged across 67 departments.

The Cornell Atkinson Center for Sustainability works to identify and advance inter-disciplinary sustainability research and initiatives at Cornell and with external partners. Cornell Atkinson has 517 faculty fellows, researchers across all colleges at Cornell, whose work is related to sustainability. The Faculty Fellow Browser may be navigated by research topic or organization.

See Living Laboratory for research ideas that use the campus and community culture change to advance sustainability innovation.

Examples of campus sustainability related research:

Environmental Systems Lab

In the US, about 38% of total greenhouse gas emissions can be attributed to buildings. Efforts such as the “Carbon Roadmap” of the DOE aim to significantly reduce these emissions. Meeting this goal will require, among other measures, a fundamental rethinking of architecture and architectural practice. ES Lab’s mission is to equip students with the knowledge and the tools to make this change happen. Explore their course listings and research projects.

Design and Environmental Analysis DepartmentCollege of Human Ecology: DEA Diagram 2014

DEA is a pioneering, multidisciplinary department within Cornell University dedicated to developing and implementing research in green ergonomics to inspire innovative, sustainable design to improve work, education, health facilities, and residential environments. Green ergonomics is an emerging discipline that helps ensure certain green buildings are engineered in ways that keep human engineering, not just energy, efficiency in mind.

The Department of Design and Environmental Analysis looks at how ergonomics can be integrated into green building and sustainable design so that productivity, health, and comfort are not compromised, and energy effective behaviors are encouraged. Cornell University is one of the few institutions in which this emerging discipline can be pursued. Both undergraduate and graduate degrees are offered.

Environmental and Water Resources Systems Research

Cornell University’s School of Civil and Environmental Engineering supports research in Environmental and Water Resources Systems (EWRS). This area of study is concerned with the development and application of quantitative methods for the evaluation, planning, and sustainable operation of water resources and environmental systems.

This research addresses integration, analysis, and engineering as well as the economic policy issues presented by the management of water, land, air, human resources, and environmental remediation efforts. The study of EWRS requires comprehension of hydrology, hydraulics, environmental sciences, biology, and environmental engineering.

A recent EWRS project considered problems posed by the calibration of complex watershed models and the evaluation of uncertainty in model predictions and estimated parameters so as to inform the model development process and decisions based upon model simulations.

Environmental Processes Research

In keeping with Cornell’s tradition of research dedicated to environmental and resource sustainability, the University’s School of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) offers research opportunities in environmental processes.

The phenomena, concepts, and technology essential for maintaining the quality of air, land, and water environments are primary concerns for environmental engineers. Specialization in Environmental Engineering requires an understanding of the biological, chemical, and physical phenomena that affect the behavior and fate of contaminants in natural systems as well as the planning, design, and operation of the engineering facilities required to ensure effective control of environmental quality. Areas of particular interest to Cornell faculty include the mechanisms of pollutant transformation in nature, contaminant transport, and biodegradation in the environment as well as water quality control engineering for sustainable water treatment in developing countries.


Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station

Freeville Farm      

NYS Agricultural Experiment Station