Research Centers-Steinbrenner Institute - Carnegie Mellon University

Research Centers

solar house 
Shelf of plants inside the Solar House

Sustainability: providing for the needs of today without impairing the ability of future generations to provide for their needs. It is a complex, multidimensional societal challenge.

Going beyond the slogan of sustainability requires interdisciplinary analysis, problem solving, and invention. At Carnegie Mellon, we are developing a path to an environmentally sustainable society, building on our interdisciplinary culture and our internationally recognized strengths in environmental technology, science, and policy.

Environmental research at Carnegie Mellon focuses on two principal themes within the general theme of transitioning to an environmentally sustainable society: (1) urban infrastructure and sustainable cities, and (2) energy transition strategies and the environment. Our research is problem-driven, interdisciplinary, and conducted collaboratively with government, corporate, and foundation partners.

Environmental research related to science, technology, policy, culture, and community is conducted in all the colleges of Carnegie Mellon, and led by efforts in a diverse group of research centers, listed below.

Environmental Implications of Nanotechnology

Risk Perception and Communication 

Sensed Critical Infrastructure

Advancement of Applied Ethics and Political Philosophy

Green Design Institute

STUDIO for Creative Inquiry

Atmospheric Particle Studies

The Institute for Green Science

Study and Improvement of Regulation

Building Performance & Diagnostics

International Corporate Responsibility

Sustainable Engineering

Climate Decision Making

Iron and Steelmaking

Design Decisions Laboratory  Living Environments Lab
Western Pennnsylvania Brownfields Center
Electricity Industry
Remaking Cities Institute  

Center for the Advancement of Applied Ethics and Political Philosophy

The Center is an interdisciplinary program dedicated to applying ethics and political philosophy in real world settings. Recently, the Center has expanded not only its name, but its faculty and interests. Remaining firmly grounded in the interdisciplinary environment of the Department and the University, its areas of intellectual activity now include political philosophy and social choice theory, moral theory and methodology as well as the theoretical foundations of Bio-ethics and Research ethics. 

Robert Cavalier
Baker Hall 155
Carnegie Mellon University
5000 Forbes Ave
Pittsburgh, PA 15217

Center for Atmospheric Particle Studies

Members of CAPS are recognized internationally as leaders in the study of air quality and atmospheric chemistry. Members research the behavior of particulate matter in the atmosphere, including emissions, formation, transformation and deposition of particles as well as their climatological and health effects. The Center’s goal is to substantially advance the state of knowledge across this spectrum, and to provide both policy-relevant research and to participate directly and actively in the evolution of environmental policy related to particulate matter.

CAPS is conducting a major air quality study in and around the City of Pittsburgh. The study offers a detailed characterization and monitoring of the particulate matter and will quantify the impact of the various sources (transportation, power plants, natural, etc.) of pollution.

Neil M. Donahue
Departments of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering
Doherty Hall 1006
Carnegie Mellon University
Pittsburgh, PA 15213

Center for Building Performance and Diagnostics

The first center in the nation to focus on the building industry, the Center for Building Performance and Diagnostics (CBPD) is engaged in ground breaking work that investigates the impact of advanced technology on the physical, environmental, and social settings in office buildings and identifies international developments in new high-performance commercial building design.

Volker Hartkopf
The Robert L. Preger Intelligent Workplace
415 Margaret Morrison Carnegie Hall
Carnegie Mellon University
Pittsburgh PA 15213

Climate Decision Making Center

cdmcHow much will global temperatures rise in the next 50 years? What about sea level? Will there be more tropical storms and habitat loss? At the Climate Decision Making Center, researchers are studying the limits in our understanding of climate change and its impacts. They are developing and demonstrating methods to characterize these irreducible uncertainties and creating decision strategies and tools that incorporate such uncertainties. The center's research focuses on the real-world problems confronted by insurance managers who face financial risks from climate change and low-carbon technologies; forest, fisheries and ecosystem managers in the Pacific Northwest and Canada; Arctic-region decision makers trying to balance cultural lifestyles with modern economic development; and electric utility managers facing large capital-investment decisions in the face of climate risks.

Granger Morgan
Carnegie Mellon University
129 Baker Hall
Pittsburgh, PA 15213

Design Decisions Laboratory

The Design Decisions Laboratory develops theories and tools to understand and assist decision-making in design and product development. The group is interested in the preferences and economics that drive design tradeoff decisions as well as the impact of those decisions on public and private stakeholders. Current thrust areas of research include design optimization of complex  systems, modeling and coordination of stakeholder preferences, and environmental policy.

Jeremy J. Michalek
Mechanical Engineering
Carnegie Mellon University
Pittsburgh, PA 15213

Electricity Industry Center

eicThe electricity industry in the United States accounts for $250 billion in sales, and demand for electricity is increasing. The industry faces issues which make meeting that demand difficult. These issues include slow rates of technology adoption, a transmission system designed for an earlier era, a hybrid of regulated and deregulated jurisdictions, and incomplete markets. The problems of the electricity industry are inherently interdisciplinary, and the Carnegie Mellon Electricity Industry Center (CEIC) has merged engineering, economics, risk analysis, decision science to study these challenges.

Jay Apt 
Tepper School of Business  
Carnegie Mellon University
Pittsburgh, PA  15213-3890  

Center for the Environmental Implications of Nanotechnology (CEINT)

Ceint LogoCEINT @ Carnegie Mellon is an interdisciplinary center within ICES. Our vision is to elucidate the relationship between the vast array of nanomaterials and properties to their environmental and human health risks. Graduate students and faculty from seven departments within the Carnegie Institute of Technology and the Mellon College of Science study the occurrences, transport, transformations, fate, and toxicity of engineered nanomaterials in the environment, aiming to understand the potential environmental exposure, biological effects, and ecological consequences.

Gregory V. Lowry 
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Porter Hall 123L
Carnegie Mellon University
Pittsburgh, PA 15213

Green Design Institute


The Green Design Institute is a major interdisciplinary research effort to make an impact on environmental quality through green design. The central idea of the institute is to form partnerships with companies, government agencies and foundations to develop pioneering design, management, manufacturing, and regulatory processes that can improve environmental quality and product quality while enhancing economic development. Our research partners will have access to policy and management tools for environmentally conscious manufacturing and product and process design, as well as opportunities to explore comprehensive solutions to problems such as hazardous emissions, use of toxic materials and inefficient energy usage.

Chris T. Hendrickson
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Carnegie Mellon University
Pittsburgh, PA 15213

The Institute for Green Science

Green Science

The Institute for Green Science is a research, education, and development center creating a holistic approach to sustainability science. The center approaches three problem areas in which green chemists can make major contributions to sustainability.

The Institute studies how to make the conversion of solar energy into chemical energy economically feasible, considers how chemical feed stocks may be obtained from renewable sources to reduce our dependence upon fossilized carbon, and finally The Institute focuses on pollution reduction.

Terry Collins
Department of Chemistry
Carnegie Mellon University
4400 Fifth Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15213

Center for International Corporate Responsibility

Business ethics have been a cornerstone of the Tepper education for nearly half a century, making Tepper a pioneer in the field. Now more than ever, the field of business ethics is growing more complex. As the world shrinks, its nations and peoples remain diverse. Corporate responsibility has assumed international proportions and, in the process, a new level of complexity. Business executives make global decisions that affect a variety of cultural and economic systems. Carnegie Mellon researchers believe the next major advance in business ethics will be a truly international approach that takes cultural differences into account. The Center for International Corporate Responsibility aims to put Carnegie Mellon in the forefront of this development, while maintaining the curriculum developed around domestic business ethics.

John Hooker
Tepper School of Business
Carnegie Mellon University
Pittsburgh, PA 15213

Center for Iron and Steelmaking

The Center for Iron and Steelmaking is a National Science Foundation initiated research center within the department for Materials Science and Engineering. The CISR conducts research relevant to iron and steel production. It is the largest academic research program for the steel industry in North America.

Sridhar Seetharaman
Materials Science & Engineering
Carnegie Mellon University
5000 Forbes Ave
WEH 4317
Pittsburgh, PA 15213

Living Environments Lab

The Living Environments Lab is focused on critical, disruptive, and creative research and prototyping of our future technologies with an emphasis on their impact on both human life (HCI, interface design, usability, experience, empowerment, emotion, etc) and environmental life (sustainability, environmental awareness, alternative energies, new materials and methods for making and re-making).

Living Environments Lab

Eric Paulos
School of Computer Science
3612E Newell-Simon Hall
Carnegie Mellon University
Pittsburgh, PA 15213

 Remaking Cities Institute

The Remaking Cities Institute (RCI) is an urban design research center in the School of Architecture that was created to promote an improved quality of life through place-making and carefully planned economic and community redevelopment. The ability to capture and evaluate the conditions of neighborhoods and regions as well as their ability to deliver the basic tenets of a shared quality of life, and to envision futures that regenerate neighborhoods and regions, is a primary goal of the RCI.
Don Carter
School of Architecture
Carnegie Mellon University
5000 Forbes Ave
Pittsburgh, PA 15213

Center for Risk Perception and Communication

The main goals of the center are 1) to bring together researchers interested in studying risk perception and risk communication; 2) to establish a common framework within which these researchers can communicate and collaborate, and 3) to bring our collective expertise to a diverse set of risk-related projects. A common approach shared by much of the research done at this center is the mental models methodology, which facilitates the integration of relevant information into a coherent "expert" model, and provides a robust procedure for the measurement of lay perceptions and the development and evaluation of communications.

Rather than taking a prescriptive approach to communication, the research associated with this center adopts a non-persuasive philosophy. The goal of communication from this approach is to help the target audience better understand the domain in which their decision will take place, so that they are better able to make smart, informed decisions in their own best interest.

Julie Downs
BP 219D 
Carnegie Mellon University
Pittsburgh, PA 15213, USA

Center for Sensed Critical Infrastructure Research 

scirThe Center for Sensed Critical Infrastructure Research (CenSCIR) brings together a multi-disciplinary team of experts committed to creating a fast, reliable monitoring system to collect and process data about a myriad of complex network systems critical to both the nation’s security and daily commerce. These monitoring systems may be used for a broad range of critical infrastructure applications, including monitoring systems for decaying bridges, oil and gas pipelines, unstable electric power grids, leading water distribution systems and campus security. 

Matthew Sanfilippo
1201 Hamburg Hall
Carnegie Mellon University
Pittsburgh, PA 15213, USA

STUDIO for Creative Inquiry


The STUDIO is a center for experimental and interdisciplinary arts in the College of Fine Arts. Founded in 1989, the STUDIO connects artistic enterprises to academic disciplines across the campus, to the community of Pittsburgh and beyond. Work carried out over the years by the STUDIO has included projects incorporating disciplines from cell biology to robotics to neuroscience to imaging technology.

Margaret Myers
Associate Director
College of Fine Arts
Carnegie Mellon University
Pittsburgh, PA 15213-3890

Center for the Study and Improvement of Regulation


The Center for the Study and Improvement of Regulation (CSIR) is a joint research center in the Department of Engineering and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University and the Institute for Risk Analysis and Risk Communication at the University of Washington. The goals of the Center are to facilitate the use of scientific information and methods in the regulatory process; Develop decision tools for addressing risk and uncertainty in the regulatory process; understand risk perceptions and effective risk communication; and examine how stakeholder involvement shapes the regulatory process and influences regulatory outcomes.

Paul Fischbeck
Engineering and Public Policy
Carnegie Mellon University
Porter Hall 208
Pittsburgh, PA 15213

Center for Sustainable Engineering


The Center for Sustainable Engineering galvanizes engineering programs into action. The center, supported by the National Science Foundation and the Environmental Protection Agency, is designed to help future engineers better manage increased stress on the world’s limited resources. The center holds workshops to improve engineering faculty teaching, hosts a website with peer-reviewed educational materials about sustainable engineering, and conducts a nationwide survey of sustainable engineering programs and courses to benchmark the status of education in this emerging discipline. The center is composed of a collaborative research team from Carnegie Mellon University, The University of Texas at Austin, and Arizona State University.

Cliff Davidson
Carnegie Mellon University
Porter Hall
Pittsburgh, PA 15213

Center for Water Quality in Urban Environmental Systems (WaterQUEST)

questWater QUESt researchers pathogens and toxicants in urban water. The center focuses on the environmental sources, fate and treatment of contaminants in urban systems. Water QUESt also develops technology and integrated modeling for application of cyberinfrastructure in environmental systems research and decision-making. These efforts are intended to cultivate a citizenry ready for the challenges of managing urban water systems. 

Jeanne VanBriesen 
Carnegie Mellon University
Pittsburgh, PA 15213

Western Pennsylvania Brownfields Center


The Western Pennsylvania Brownfields Center at Carnegie Mellon University  is a resource for local communities and small business and property owners. It  serves as a vehicle to  enhance the growth of brownfields remediation and redevelopment in western Pennsylvania. The Western Pennsylvania Brownfields Center provides access to information and research on previous development efforts, site-specific workshops that bring together national experts and local stakeholders to strategize comprehensive development initiatives for municipalities and small business owners, and education programs for professional practitioners and academics in the field.

Deborah Lange
Executive Director
Hamburg Hall 1209
Carnegie Mellon University
Pittsburgh, PA 15213