Intern Jaya Alagar presents Healthy Building Materials lecture


As the Zilkha Center’s Healthy Building Materials Intern, I spent the year working in conjunction with Integrated EcoStrategy (IES), a materials consulting firm founded by a Williams alum and based out of North Adams, MA. As an IES researcher, I helped vet materials to be eventually incorporated into Fort Hoosac, a dormitory by the Clark Art Museum that is meant to house graduate art history students. As this dormitory is being designed in accordance with Williams’s revised sustainability standards, understanding exactly what materials it will be made of is of great importance.

I spent time familiarizing myself with two green building certification programs that would guide the dormitory’s construction, namely the Living Building Challenge (LBC) and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). I also gained an understanding of common toxins and hazards present in building materials, or what LBC deems the “Red List,” to aid in my work helping Fort Hoosac satisfy LBC’s Material Petal. In many cases, if building materials assigned by the dormitory’s architects included chemicals on the “Red List,” healthier, more sustainable materials had to be found as alternatives, which could then be used in the building’s construction instead. All of my research into the chemical, recyclable, sourcing, and emission content of Fort Hoosac’s building materials has been added to the Red2Green database. IES uses this software to standardize the process of gathering and compiling data from manufacturers about healthy building materials such that architects, design teams, and project managers can access this information in a streamlined way to assist their green building choices.

I was fortunate to have opportunities to present about my IES research, namely at Dartmouth’s 2nd Annual Student Sustainability Summit and at Williams’s Healthy Building Materials Lunch. At the latter event, I presented jointly with my internship advisor Amy Johns, who provided a larger context for my work in terms of Williams’s past and present commitments to sustainability and green building design. As a prospective chemistry major and science and technology concentrator, I appreciated this internship’s applicability to my academic interests and for introducing me to related ones. Certainly, I could not have had this internship experience without the help and gratitude of the staff of the Zilkha Center, members of the Fort Hoosac building committee, employees at IES, and many others. I would like to extend a warm “thank you” to all of those involved in helping facilitate this experience, which has exposed me to different ideas, peoples, and branches of work. As I venture into the summer and onwards, I hope to continue being involved in Fort Hoosac and other Williams buildings in some capacity, but will continue to cherish the experiences this internship has given.

In this video, Jaya Alagar ’22 shares about the need for healthy materials in building projects at Williams College. She spent the 2018-2019 academic year working on vetting materials for compliance with the International Living Futures Institute’s Living Building Challenge Materials Petal.