SFU's Living Lab researchers launch four new projects supporting net zero carbon emissions

April 21, 2022

Committed to climate action, Simon Fraser University’s (SFU) Living Lab program launches four sustainability projects to address global climate change by achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050. This is the second cohort of scholars since the program was introduced in the fall of 2020.

The projects—led by teams of SFU graduate students, faculty and staff—highlight the university’s pledge to sustained and meaningful climate action across various sectors. From reducing digital device-related carbon emissions to piloting hybrid solar-rain cells, the projects illustrate several ways to advance sustainable solutions through a collaborative and just framework.

“By applying the university’s leading climate change research to its own infrastructure and facilities, we are able to test solutions and innovations in the real world,” says Candace Le Roy, executive director of SFU Sustainability. “The program enables students, staff and faculty to work together in generating the data and solutions that might not otherwise have been developed without this unique interdisciplinary team.”

The findings may inform strategies in support of SFU’s Strategic Sustainability Plan (SFU 2025).  Additionally, the Living Lab’s model of testing solutions has potential to be replicated and scaled off campus locally, regionally and globally.

SFU’s Living Lab is made possible by SFU’s Office of the Vice-President, Research and International, Office of the Vice-President Finance and Administration, and the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions—the program is led by SFU Sustainability.

SFU joined the United Nations-led Race To Zero campaign in support of a global effort to act on climate change and achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050 at the latest. This is an ambitious endeavour, one that will require many different on the ground solutions such as the Living Lab program.

2022 Living Lab projects

SFU transportation and commuting survey

How do we support the SFU community to use more sustainable modes of transportation over time? SFU’s School of Resource and Environmental Management (REM) graduate student Laura Beattie and her research team, REM Professor Andreanne Doyon and Parking and Sustainable Mobility Services Director David Agosti, will conduct a comprehensive survey to better understand commuting patterns and sources of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from transportation-related sources. The results will help inform SFU’s strategies to reduce transportation GHG emissions.

The life and afterlife of digital devices in academic research

As technology advances, the lifespan of our digital devices continues to shorten and electronic waste (e-waste) continues to grow. E-waste is the world’s fastest growing waste stream, and it is estimated to reach 120 million tonnes by 2050.

From procurement to proper disposal, SFU’s School of Interactive Arts and Technology graduate student Reese Muntean and her team of researchers, SIAT Professor Kate Hennessy and SFU Facilities Project Manager Todd Mann, will examine the impact of institutional infrastructures on sustainable and socially responsible practices for digital devices. Muntean’s research supports SFU’s procurement and waste GHG reduction strategies

Optimized building retrofit strategy tool

In 1965, SFU opened our doors to 2,500 students atop Burnaby Mountain. Six decades later, we have grown substantially, expanding to over 70 academic buildings and residences across all three campuses. Since 2016, SFU’s GHG emissions have been reduced by 35 per cent compared to 2007 levels, despite growth in total building area by 23 per cent.

In support of SFU’s building and fleet emission reduction target of 50 per cent, Mechatronic Systems Engineering graduate student Milad Ebadi and his research team, MSE professor Majid Bahrami and SFU Facilities Services Energy Manager Bernard Chan, will design a custom optimized building retrofit strategy tool that focuses on proposing specific retrofit scenarios for each building based on current conditions and needs.

Sustainable energy production through utilizing hybrid solar-rain cells

SFU’s Nano Device Fabrication Group has developed a small prototype of a hybrid solar-rain cell based on crystalline silicon. SFU’s School of Engineering Science graduate student Ribwar Ahmadi and his research team, Engineering Science Professor Michael Adachi and Facilities Services Energy Manager Bernard Chan, will develop and pilot test a full-scale working prototype. Ahmadi’s research supports SFU’s building and fleet emission reduction strategies.

Please join us for an online SFU Living Lab event at the Burnaby Festival of Learning on Tuesday May 10, 2022, from 2 to 3 p.m. to hear these Living Lab Scholars share more about their projects. For more information about SFU’s Living Lab program, visit www.sfu.ca/sustainability/livinglab.