The SFU Living Labs Program Connects Research With Campus Services and Sustainability 

By Taylor Assion 

The research we do at SFU has wide-reaching scope and applications outside of the university, in our communities and across the world. Closer to home, the Living Lab program aims to find practical research-based, sustainable solutions for challenges we face right here on our three campuses.

The Living Labs program is a collaborative partnership of SFU faculty and grad students, SFU Sustainability, VPRI (VP, Research and International) and VPFA (VP, Finance and Administration to work together with our service departments on various sustainable research projects throughout the year.

With the VPFA’s Ancillary Services, successful Round 1 (R1) work has recently been completed with Parking & Sustainable Mobility Services to provide recommendations for fleet electrification of our campus vehicles. David Agosti, Director of Parking and Sustainable Mobility Services, worked with Kamaria Kuling (Ph.D. Student, School of Sustainable Energy Engineering) and Taco Niet (Assistant Professor of Professional Practice, School of Sustainable Energy Engineering), on this project.

The findings coming out of the work support the idea of reducing SFU’s carbon footprint through the adoption of electric vehicles (EV) and plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEV) when it comes to high-use campus vehicle usage.

Another important Living Lab project involves Food director Dan Traviss and project manager Simon Tse working alongside Nadia Springle (MA student, School of Resource and Environmental Management) and Tammara Soma (Assistant Professor, School of Resource and Environmental Management), to provide recommendations on reducing SFU’s reliance on bio-plastic alternatives in food services on our campuses.

Their research found that, while bio-plastics might seem like a good alternative to the plastic straws, forks and knives used in the past, they’re currently not widely accepted for compost in Metro Vancouver. The team recommends expanding the Re-use For Good program to reduce waste in food service areas through the adoption of reusable products, where available, to promote a circular economy across our campuses.

Round two (R2) Living Labs, currently underway, include another collaboration with Parking and Sustainable Mobility on a survey that will provide more data on the impact of commuting patterns on GHG emissions.

 “We strongly support the Living Lab program at SFU,” says David Agosti, Director of Parking and Sustainable Mobility Services. “It furthers our goals of being part of an engaged university where we leverage academic skills in helping to meet our operational needs, making a difference for our planet and our local community by using data to support real change.”

The Living Lab program is funded by SFU’s Office of the Vice-President, Research and International (VPRI), Office of the Vice-President Finance and Administration (VPFA), and Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions (PICS).