Implementing Solutions

Climate: Ecosystems + Housing

How might communities protect high-carbon ecosystems and create low-carbon housing for all?

Submissions are Closed

Challenge Overview

The climate crisis requires dramatic action from companies and governments on both mitigation and adaptation. Simultaneously, a zero-carbon world will require both new technologies and equitable approaches to deployment. In response, MIT Solve will focus our ongoing Sustainability Challenges around innovation needs to enable equitable climate action at scale. For 2022, we are focusing on the following two areas:

Protecting Ecosystem Carbon

Natural ecosystems absorb and store huge amounts of carbon and provide many other benefits for both the biosphere and human communities. Stabilizing current carbon-rich ecosystems, such as peatlands or mangrove forests, and driving long-term absorption and storage of natural carbon is critical to mitigating the climate crisis. However, local communities often lack non-destructive opportunities for jobs and income, even when traditional practices or repurposing degraded land might support both people and nature in the long term. Carbon monitoring is a key tool for tracking progress, but current approaches are either hard to verify or expensive to scale–particularly underwater or in soils. For both stabilization and measurement, enabling many separate communities to participate on their terms is critical.

Decarbonizing Housing

Houses make up the majority of the world’s buildings90% in the USand are responsible for 17% of total carbon emissions, with more from construction and materials. We need to end those emissions, plus avoid new emissions while housing the one billion people, concentrated in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, who live in informal settlements. Existing buildings need efficiency improvements and easy retrofits for hundreds of millions of fossil fuel uses such as furnaces or unhealthy stoves. In contrast, new housing requires scaling low-carbon supply chains around the world, from material supply through efficient design, construction, and operation in diverse global contexts. Both retrofits and new construction demand can be a source of good low-carbon jobs across the supply chain. Finally, because land use and transportation emissions are linked, all housing innovations should focus on denser, multi-use communities that reduce the need to travel by car.

The MIT Solve community is looking for eight technology-based solutions that help communities thrive with either high-carbon ecosystems or good low-carbon homes at scale. To that end, Solve seeks solutions that:

  • Support local economies that protect high-carbon ecosystems from destruction, including forests, peatlands, and mangroves.

  • Provide scalable, high-quality monitoring of carbon stocks in soil, peat, and marine environments, including at depth. 

  • Develop new value chains for mass creation of inexpensive and low-carbon housing, including changes to materials, designs, or construction methods. 

  • Decarbonize heating and cooking systems in existing homes while improving efficiency.

Special Call: Black & Brown Innovators program

A housing system shaped by systemic racism and ongoing bias puts the highest energy costs and lowest access to efficient housing on communities of color, while removing these communities from land and ecosystems they’ve lived with for generations. As part of Solve’s ongoing work on US racial equity, we will select 1-2 solutions from the US working to address these disparities for our Black & Brown Innovators Program.


Accepting Solutions

  • Challenge Open
  • Deadline to Submit

Evaluating Solutions

  • CLG Reviews
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