College of Liberal Arts | Spring 2021

Enabling sustainable change

As an undergraduate majoring in philosophy, Leigh Raymond was constantly asking himself, in regards to environmental issues, “Not only what can the government do, but what should government do?”

Now a professor of political science, Raymond says he has always been interested in ways to improve the world and environmental issues, and from an early age, he saw politics as a way to make that happen. After working for several environmental organizations, he decided to focus on how government can solve environmental problems. His most recent research concerns finding a way to make energy-efficient housing and transportation more affordable for low-income families.

Raymond—along with a team of experts including Torsten Reimer, associate professor in the Brian Lamb School of Communication, James Braun, Herrick Professor of Engineering, and Panagiota Karava, associate professor of civil engineering—is addressing the issue of how to make buildings more energy efficient in a way that also improves quality of life for the people living and working in them.

The team’s Affordable Net Zero Housing and Transportation Solutions project received support from Discovery Park’s Big Ideas Challenge in the spring of 2017. This support was followed by funding from the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Smart and Connected Communities program. Growing partnerships with affordable housing developers, a leading renewable energy consulting firm (Energy Systems Network), and the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority further support the project.

The interdisciplinary NSF funding program brings engineers, computer scientists, and social scientists together to think about the latest developments in computing technology in order to help enable sustainable change. The grant supports research and capacity-building activities that integrate multiple disciplinary perspectives and undertake meaningful community engagement. This grant will bring $3.5 million to Purdue to expand the work started in the team’s Big Ideas proposal. That idea revolved around using integrated computing technology for smart homes and vehicles to improve the quality of life and solve other big challenges in cities and rural areas. Raymond says that the project is intended to benefit people living in new housing developments so they will have better choices in terms of how to heat, cool, and light their apartments and homes more affordably.

“[Net Zero Housing] is a really exciting project because it is such a diverse collaboration, and it’s a great example of how people in our college, Liberal Arts, can contribute in important ways to a much bigger set of issues. Seeing the success of this grant is especially exciting because it shows how our college can be a part of these large grant applications, even to funders who we might think of being more focused on engineering or science. Really, people are at the heart of everything. In the College of Liberal Arts, we think a lot about people. I’m especially excited about the large and effective nature of our team, how important that was to the funders, and how great it is for CLA to be a part of it,” says Raymond.

Raymond is also making an impact with his recent book Reclaiming the Atmospheric Commons, which won the 2017 Lynton Keith Caldwell Prize for the best book on environmental policy.

“The book is really about how governments use economic incentives to solve environmental problems,” says Raymond. “It is specifically about a type of policy that is called ‘cap and trade.’ I’ve been studying cap and trade policies for 20 years. This book, in particular, tries to explain how policy advocates were able to change cap and trade policies in a very important and very surprising way.”

Raymond was very surprised and happy when he found out that he was being recognized for the award. “Books are funny. You work on them a long time, and so it’s especially gratifying when they finally come out and are recognized in this way. If people are reading it and you are getting positive feedback on all that work, that’s a nice part of the job.”