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By applying SFU's leading sustainability and climate research to the university's own infrastructure and facilities, the Living Lab program tests innovative solutions that can be applied and scaled anywhere in the world.
Through 2020-2022, teams of staff, faculty and graduate students were invited to submit innovative, creative and solution-based proposals that support the implementation of SFU’s Sustainability Plan. Successful applicants were awarded up to $12,500 in funding to realize their proposals.
2022 Research Projects
SFU Transportation and Commuting Survey
SFU's sustainability plan aims to reduce transportation greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 10% by 2025. To help achieve this target, Laura Beattie is conducting a comprehensive survey across campuses to better understand commuting patterns and sources of GHG emissions from transportation-related sources.
- Laura Beattie, MRM student, School of Resource and Environmental Management
- Andréanne Doyon, assistant Professor and director (planning program), School of Resource and Environmental Management
- David Agosti, director, parking & sustainable mobility services
The SFU Transportation and Commuting Survey is a PICS Living Lab scholar project.
Sustainable Energy Production Through Utilizing Hybrid Solar-Rain Cells
Ribwar Ahmadi fabricates and tests Silicon-based hybrid solar-rain cells to harvest the energy of sunlight and falling droplets of water simultaneously. To transform different kinds of mechanical energy in the environment into electricity, a triboelectric nanogenerator (TENG) based on contact electrification and electrostatic induction has been developed. Recently, triboelectrification at the water/solid interfaces has been exploited to build a novel type of mechanical energy harvesters that shows promise for harvesting energy from ocean waves, tides, and rainwater in the environment.
In the Nano Device Fabrication Group, we have developed a small prototype of the hybrid solar-rain cell based on crystalline Silicon. The results indicate that Silicon by itself is capable of harvesting energy from the sun and falling droplets of water individually and simultaneously.
This project seeks to test the technology of hybrid solar-rain cells that has the potential to be upscaled.
- Ribwar Ahmadi, PhD student, School of Engineering Science
- Michael Adachi, assistant professor, School of Engineering Science
- Bernard Chan, energy manager, Facilities Services
Optimized Building Retrofit Strategy Tool
Unlike residential buildings, commercial and institutional buildings have quite different usage profiles and architectures; hence, they need a specific method to reduce energy consumption. Targeting a 50 per cent reduction in GHG production by 2025, Simon Fraser University with three campuses distributed in metro Vancouver and different construction dates and standards needs a specific solution for each building based on its location, application and construction working routine.
This research aims to design Optimized Building Retrofit Strategy Tool (OBRST) to reduce the energy demand for space cooling and heating of each building based on its specific parameters like location, working routine and construction material. Using this design tool, one can propose a specific optimized method for each building.
- Milad Ebadi, PhD student, School of Mechatronic Systems Engineering
- Majid Bahrami, professor, School of Mechatronic Systems Engineering
- Bernard Chan, energy manager, Facilities Services
The Life and Afterlife of Digital Devices in Academic Research
Institutional procurement processes and waste planning can have great impact in the shift towards sustainable practices by encouraging socially responsible and environmentally friendly technology options as well as supporting the proper disposal of digital devices. Yet digital devices purchased for research purposes often fall outside of traditional procurement processes. Furthermore, while the sustainability of digital devices is well-researched in the field of sustainable human-computer interaction (HCI), such institutional processes in relation to sustainable HCI remain underexplored.
This project examines these gaps in sustainable HCI research and in university procurement through a visual and mixed-methods research study of technology procurement and the end of life of digital devices at SFU. This project investigates how faculty members decide on their technology purchases and what considerations are made for the end of life of the technology. Our goals are to develop SFU-specific recommendations based on the current practices and issues uncovered during research, generalized findings relevant to the HCI community, and a compelling visual narrative to communicate these issues to a broader audience.
- Reese Muntean, PhD student, School of Interactive Arts and Technology
- Kate Hennessy, Assistant Professor, School of Interactive Arts & Technology
- Todd Mann, Facilities Coordinator, Facilities Services
2021 Research Projects
Examining the Carbon Impact of Streaming Media in University Teaching and Learning
Yani Kong and her team of researchers intend to make tangible the otherwise invisible impact of streaming by measuring university outputs and developing education and policy shifts for SFU.
- Driven by data servers, networks and consumer devices, information and communication technologies (ICT) currently emits 2.7-3.3% of global greenhouse gases and is projected to increase to 7% by 2030 and by 15% by 2040. Streaming media contributes more than any other sector to this increase.
- This project responds to the need to reduce ICT’s contributions to the greenhouse gas emission by measuring the university’s outputs and developing education and policy shifts for SFU.
- The project seeks to determine the specific technology needs, to calculate the resulting CO2 emissions using the measurement model under development by SFU Engineering, and finally to develop best practices for video conferencing and online media streaming. The project will build awareness and help incorporate its findings into the mindful media consumption practices at the university.
- Yani Kong, PhD student, School for the Contemporary Arts
- Laura Marks, professor, School for the Contemporary Arts
- Stefan Smulovitz, manager, technology & resources, School for the Contemporary Arts, and SFU IT Services
Project updates - June 2021
Yani has conducted qualitative research surveys of SFU students, faculty, and staff on their streaming habits in relation to remote learning, as well as interviewed staff members in SFU Copyright who are responsible for digitizing the library catalogue.
She has learned that 80-100% percent of courses are reliant on streaming media and that 90% of instructors use Zoom as a virtual classroom, supplementing with prerecorded lecture material and other embedded content. Across her research, instructors and students have indicated issues they encounter with remote learning, such as lag, connection, and VPN access for students studying internationally, tissues that can be addressed if educational streaming media were made available to download.
Yani’s next step is to work with SFU IT to measure classroom energy consumption in relation to streaming platforms used for remote learning, and to consult with IT practitioners to develop a best practice guideline for streaming media consumption in remote learning environments. In the meantime, she is planning workshops and panel discussions to raise awareness on the carbon footprint of streaming in remote teaching and learning in the arts and humanities.
Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) Analysis for SFU Fleet Electrification
To reduce vehicle emissions and improve air quality, 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 will perform life cycle assessments (LCA) on SFU’s operational vehicle fleet to compare the challenges and potential trade-offs of electrification.
- This project will investigate the opportunities and challenges associated with the electrification of SFU’s operational fleet vehicles.
- Life cycle assessments (LCA) on the SFU operational vehicle fleet will be completed and compared with the challenges and potential trade-offs of electrification.
- The Fleet LCA tool, developed by Ahmadi (former SFU postdoc) and Kjeang (SFU faculty) and supported by PICS, will be used to analyze the energy and resources required for the new EVs and disposal of used batters at the end of the vehicle life and can also determine emissions from both the existing and future vehicle options.
- The vehicle options will include electric vehicles (EVs), hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (FCVs) that offer low or zero emission.
The Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) Analysis for SFU Fleet Electrification is a PICS Living Lab scholar project.
- Kamaria Kuling, MASc student, School of Sustainable Energy Engineering
- Taco Niet, Assistant Professor of Professional Practice, School of Sustainable Energy Engineering
- David Agosti, Director, Parking and Sustainable Mobility
Project updates - June 2021
Since beginning her research, Kamaria has identified gaps in data collection and is procuring new tracking technology to mitigate this lack of data. Once enough data is gathered, she will highlight areas of high emissions reduction for lower cost, possibilities for quick emissions reductions, and long-term emissions reduction pathways. Once the scenarios have been refined to include more information on the usage needs of the fleet, she will summarize the findings and produce a set of recommendations for SFU to support fleet decarbonization.
Sustainability and Management of Bioplastic Food Service Products
Plant based plastics or bioplastics seem like a good alternative to single use plastics. But are they really better for the environment?
Nadia Springle and her research team address the need to research and inform decision-making on more sustainable single-use alternatives to petroleum-based plastics. The research team will offer recommendations surrounding policy, procurement and best practices for the use, management and disposal of bioplastic foodservice ware for SFU Ancillary Services.
- This project seeks to address the need to research and inform decision-making on more sustainable single-use alternatives to petroleum-based plastics
- Bioplastics, which encompass a range of products made from renewable plant resources, is one of the available substitutes for plastic foodservice ware and packaging. However, bioplastics present their own complex challenges and limitations including greenwashing, waste stream contamination, and limited and inconsistent options for waste disposal and management.
- The project will result in recommendations surrounding policy, procurement and best practices for the use, management and disposal of bioplastic foodservice ware for SFU Ancillary Services.
Sustainability and Management of Bioplastic Food Service Products is a Reuse for Good project.
- Nadia Springle, MRM student, School of Resource and Environmental Management
- Tammara Soma, Assistant Professor, School of Resource and Environmental Management
- Dan Travis & Simon Tse, Ancillary Services - SFU Food
Project updates - June 2021
Nadia has been working with the Food Systems Lab to complete her external stakeholder engagement workshops on bioplastics. The current phase of the project is working with SFU Dining Services to get more information about their food packaging use, and developing resources and recommendations for sustainable packaging at SFU (and considering if and how bioplastics should be part of that).
Sustainable Living Indoor Gardens Utilizing Energy-efficient and Renewable Energy Technology
How do we feed the world’s population of 7.8 billion? Afagh Mohagheghi and research team aim to utilize renewable energy and energy savings strategies to develop sustainable indoor gardens at SFU’s Surrey campus.
- This project aims at utilizing renewable energy and energy savings strategies to develop sustainable indoor gardens to be established in the SFU Surrey campus and possibly deployed to other campuses. In collaboration with Embark Sustainability, the project team will build these technology-enhanced gardens for promoting nutritious and sustainable food production and accessibility.
- In the area of renewable energy, the following technologies will be implemented and tested: (i) transparent photovoltaics, and (ii) LED supplemental lighting with intelligent daylight harvesting. The control algorithms will be adjusted and tuned based on feedback from students and garden operators to achieve optimal performance.
- SFU Surrey Operations is aware of the project and Living Lab will make additional effort to enhance the project’s connection to the Surrey Campus as a whole.
- Afagh Mohagheghi, PhD student, School of Mechatronic Systems Engineering
- Mehrdad Moallem, Professor, School of Mechatronic Systems Engineering
- Pablo Vimos, Gardens Coordinator, EMBARK Sustainability and SFU Surrey Operations
Project Update - June 2021
In collaboration with Embark Sustainability and SFU Motion and Power Electronics and Control (MPEC) Lab team, four garden set-ups were developed to combine gardening expertise and scientific knowledge creating a data rich environment for Sustainable Indoor Garden research.
The first growth cycle (from the reproductive stage to harvest) was tested in Smart Garden 1 during the months of January through April. The crops included tomatoes, cucumbers, and bell peppers. This cycle was focused on collecting and analyzing general indoor plant growth data.
As a second step, Planters 1 and 2 were equipped with self-watering systems to reduce human intervention. A growth cycle was carried out in April-May 2021 with plants such as lettuce, basil, and onions to test the irrigation system and study lighting conditions.
After that, the second growth cycle (from vegetative stage to harvest) was started in Smart Garden 1 mid-May 2021. The crops include tomatoes, cucumbers and basil. This cycle is focused on collecting image data for plant health and morphological analysis.
The next steps include adding the broad-spectrum LEDs to the Planters 1 and 2 to enhance flavor, deploying the calibrated sensors with a Neural Network algorithm to a growth cycle to quantify supplemental lighting effects on plants and energy savings, and integrating more environmental parameters sensors with the system.
Partners & Advisory Committee Members
The Living Lab was led by SFU Sustainability and funded by the 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).
Living Lab Advisory Committee Members
- Anil Hira (professor, Department of Political Science)
- Dan Cooper (associate director, buildings and grounds, Facilities)
- David Zandvliet (professor, Faculty of Education)
- Gretchen Ferguson (director, global engagement, SFU International)
- Gordon McTaggart-Cowan (associate professor, School of Sustainable Energy Engineering) [Term 1]
- John Clague (professor emeritus, Department of Earth Sciences)
- Lupin Battersby (knowledge mobilization officer)
- Maya Gislason (associate professor, Faculty of Health Sciences)
- Nastenka Calle Delgado (SFU program manager, PICS)
- Nelly Leo (executive director, Embark Sustainability)
- Shaheen Nanji (executive director, SFU International)
- Sid Mehta (senior director, Ancillary Services)
- Simon Ford (academic director, undergraduate minor; senior lecturer, innovation and entrepreneurship, Beedie School of Business)
- Zafar Adeel (professor of professional practice, School of Sustainable Energy Engineering)
For more on the Living Lab, please contact Kilim Park (firstname.lastname@example.org)