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Living Lab launches scalable solutions to counter climate change

February 23, 2021
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By Pam Lim

Researchers in SFU’s new Living Lab transform the university’s campus into a testing ground for sustainable solutions, launching four innovative projects to counter global climate change.

Last fall, SFU introduced the Living Lab program, a new initiative that applies the university’s leading sustainability and climate research to its own infrastructure and facilities.

Now, the lab welcomes its first group of scholars and kicks off pilot projects to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The projects, led by teams of graduate students, faculty and staff, were selected by an advisory committee comprised of sustainability leaders from across campus.

Researchers will focus on four areas: renewable energy technology, bioplastic alternatives, electrifying vehicle fleets and the carbon impact of streaming media. And in support of SFU’s knowledge mobilization initiative, they will share discoveries from the test site with local and global communities.

“The Living Lab’s model of testing solutions that can then be applied and scaled anywhere in the world will drive innovation and collaboration, empowering the next generation of leaders to stop further climate warming,” says Kilim Park, manager of research sustainability at SFU’s Sustainability Office.

The SFU Living Lab is made possible by the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions (PICS) and SFU’s Re-use for Good Initiative. Learn more about the Living Lab at sfu.ca/sustainability/projects/livinglab.

Living Lab Research projects

Afagh Mohagheghi

Sustainable Living Indoor Gardens Utilizing Energy-efficient and Renewable Energy Technology

How do we feed the world’s population of 7.8 billion? School of Mechatronic Systems Engineering (MSE) graduate student Afagh Mohagheghi and research team, MSE professor Mehrdad Moallem and EMBARK Sustainability gardens coordinator Pablo Vimos, aim to utilize renewable energy and energy savings strategies to develop sustainable indoor gardens at SFU’s Surrey campus.

Nadia Springle

Sustainability and Management of Bioplastic Food Service Products (Re-Use for Good project)

Plant based plastics or bioplastics seem like a good alternative to single use plastics. But are they really better for the environment?

Resource and Environmental Management (REM) graduate student Nadia Springle and her research team, REM professor Tammara Soma, Ancillary Services director Dan Travis and Dining Services manager Simon Tse, address the need to research and inform decision-making on more sustainable single-use alternatives to petroleum-based plastics.

Kamaria Kuling

Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) Analysis for SFU Fleet Electrification (PICS-Living Lab Scholar)

To reduce vehicle emissions and improve air quality, School of Sustainable Energy Engineering (SEE) graduate student Kamaria Kuling investigates the benefits and challenges of replacing SFU’s operational vehicle fleet with low or zero emission vehicles such as electric vehicles (EVs), hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (FCVs).

Kuling and her research team, SEE professor Taco Niet, MSE professor Erik Kjeang and Parking and Sustainable Mobility director David Agosti, perform life cycle assessments (LCA) on SFU’s operational vehicle fleet to compare the challenges and potential trade-offs of electrification.

Yani Kong

Examining the Carbon Impact of Streaming Media in University Teaching and Learning

Last March, university teaching shifted abruptly to remote methods, but this increased reliance on information and communications technologies (ICT) comes at an environmental cost that is rarely acknowledged.

Contemporary arts (CA) graduate student Yani Kong, her team of researchers, CA professor Laura Marks and technology and resources manager Stefan Smulovitz, and IT services intend to make tangible the otherwise invisible impact of streaming by measuring university outputs and developing education and policy shifts for SFU.