Green infrastructure: New tool to help construction industry reduce carbon footprint

Originally posted on U of T Engineering News by Tyler Irving.

Professors Brenda McCabe, Daman Panesar, Shoshanna Saxe, Heather MacLean and Daniel Posen (all CivE) are collaborating with companies in construction, building services and engineering consulting to reduce the greenhouse gas impacts of future infrastructure projects. (Photo: Tyler Irving)


A team of researchers from U of T Engineering is partnering with the construction industry to help reduce the carbon footprint of buildings, bridges, public transit and other major infrastructure projects.

“What we’re building is a decision-support tool that can be used in the early stages of design and planning,” says Professor Heather MacLean (CivE), one of five U of T Engineering professors involved in the project. “Ultimately, the goal is to produce infrastructure with much lower greenhouse gas impact.”

While green building certification programs have existed for decades, MacLean and her collaborators — including Professors Brenda McCabeDaman PanesarDaniel Posen and Shoshanna Saxe (all CivE) — point out that these are typically considered only toward the end of the design process, when most major decisions have already been made.

“The decisions that have the most impact are the ones that are made early in the process,” says Saxe, who specializes in analysis of transit infrastructure. “These include how big it’s going to be, or what materials it will be made of. Once those are set, it really puts limits on how low the overall emissions can get.”

Nearly a year ago, the team was approached by EllisDon, a major construction and building services company headquartered in Mississauga, Ont. As part of its Carbon Impact Initiative, the company and its partners, including BASF and WSP, are collaborating on projects that aim to elevate efficiency and sustainability in the built environment.

In their early talks, the researchers and industry partners quickly identified science-based decision support in the early stages of project planning as a key strategy for emissions reduction. They plan to analyze data from previously constructed projects and publicly available databases to generate predictive tools.

“Large-scale infrastructure projects are complex, consisting of many different construction activities, along with associated inputs of material and energy,” says MacLean. “We don’t yet have good data about the on-site and supply-chain emissions associated with these inputs, especially those specific to the Ontario context. If we can cut down on that uncertainty, it will greatly help inform these types of decisions.”

Today, the Ministry of Research, Innovation and Science announced that the project was among those that received funding through the TargetGHG program, administered by Ontario Centres of Excellence, which supports industry-academic collaborations that will help the province meet more aggressive future GHG targets.

“Supporting the efforts of large industries in their quest to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions is an important part of our government’s Climate Change Action Plan,” says Reza Moridi, Minister of Research, Innovation and Science. “With the help of our province’s innovative cleantech companies, the TargetGHG program will help build a prosperous, low carbon economy and create a cleaner, more sustainable future for Ontario.”

In total, the project has attracted more than $2 million in funding from a variety of sources, including the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) as well as financial and in-kind contributions from the industrial partners.

“Taking steps to reduce the impacts of greenhouse gases and air pollution on our climate and environment is a key priority in Canada,” says Dr. Marc Fortin, Vice-President, Research Partnerships, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. “NSERC is proud to partner with Ontario Centres of Excellence to connect Canada’s top researchers and companies to develop innovative clean technologies that will advance environmental sustainability in Canada and improve the health and quality of life of Canadians.”

“This project is a wonderful example of how our researchers leverage strong collaborations with industry to develop next-generation solutions to society’s most pressing challenges, including climate change,” said Ramin Farnood, Vice-Dean, Research at U of T Engineering. “This tool has great potential to enhance the sustainability of major infrastructure not just here in Ontario, but around the world.”

A second U of T Engineering project, focused on installation and testing of fast-charging stations for electric vehicles, also received funding through the TargetGHG program. Led by Professor Reza Iravani (ECE), it will be carried out in collaboration with energy storage company eCAMION.

MacLean and her team are already looking to recruit the graduate students and postdoctoral fellows who will collect and analyze the data, and continue to work closely with their industrial partners as they move forward.

“It’s exciting to be working with partners that are eager to roll out solutions,” says Posen. “We have had great meetings, and we have a strong sense they are looking to turn this research into practical results.”

Prof. Daman Panesar: Hart Professorship recipient

Daman Panesar (CivE) has been named the Erwin Edward Hart Professor in Civil Engineering. Her research focuses on new ways to improve the performance of concrete structures, from bridges to buildings. (Photo: Tyler Irving)

 This story originally appeared on U of T News.

Seven U of T Engineering faculty members have received the inaugural Percy Edward Hart and Erwin Edward Hart Professorships, enhancing emerging research and education across the Faculty.

The professorships were created by a landmark bequest from the estate of alumnus Erwin Edward Hart (CivE 4T0). The seven professors are all within the first 10 years of their careers and have demonstrated a high level of research excellence and exemplary graduate student mentorship.

“Our inaugural Hart Professors exemplify the richness and diversity of research and education across our Faculty,” said Cristina Amon, dean of the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering. “They are addressing society’s most relevant challenges, from sustainable energy to human health, while nurturing the next generation of global engineering leaders.”

Professor Daman Panesar (CivE) – Erwin Edward Hart Professor in Civil Engineering

Panesar4Professor Panesar completed her PhD at McMaster University and joined U of T Engineering in 2008. Her research focuses on new ways to improve the performance of concrete structures, from bridges to buildings. Panesar and her team develop technologies that could extend the life of such structures, reduce environmental impacts or improve economic feasibility. Examples include the study of low carbon footprint materials, nano-cellulose fibers, industrial byproducts, supplementary cementing material and fillers on the durability performance of concrete as a result of coupled degradation mechanisms. In 2006 she received the P.L. Pratley Award from the Canadian Society of Civil Engineering and in 2012 she received an Early Researcher Award from the Ontario Ministry of Economic Development and Innovation.

The other six recipients are:

Professor Natalie Enright Jerger (ECE) – Percy Edward Hart Professor in Electrical and Computer Engineering

JergerProfessor Enright Jerger (ECE) completed her PhD at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and joined U of T Engineering in 2009. She is an expert in computer architecture — the design and arrangement of components within a computer chip. Using computer models and simulations, Enright Jerger and her team test out new chip configurations and optimize them for computing speed, power usage, cost, size and a host of other parameters. In collaboration with companies such as Intel, AMD and Qualcomm, the team is is bringing about a new generation of more powerful computers, smartphones, tablets and other devices. In the last two years alone, Jerger has received the Professional Engineers Ontario (PEO) Engineering Medal – Young Engineer, a Sloan Research Fellowship, and the Borg Early Career Award for outreach.

Professor Tobin Filleter (MIE) – Erwin Edward Hart Professor in Mechanical and Industrial Engineering

Filleter-sizedProfessor Filleter completed his PhD at McGill University and joined U of T Engineering in 2012. He is an expert on the mechanics of nanomaterials, especially as they relate to friction and wear, which cause premature damage to many mechanical structures. His team studies and tests ultrathin films, lubricants, and coatings that could be used in everything from automobiles to aircraft and even space systems. Some of these systems involve recently-discovered materials, including graphene and graphene oxide. In 2014, Filleter received the I.W. Smith Award from the Canadian Society for Mechanical Engineering and in 2016, he received an Early Researcher Award from the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation.

Professor Philippe Lavoie (UTIAS) – Percy Edward Hart Professor in Aerospace Engineering

Lavoie-croppedProfessor Lavoie completed his PhD at the University of Newcastle (Australia) and joined U of T Engineering in 2008. He is an expert in experimental fluid mechanics as applied to aerodynamics. A main focus of his work is controlling the flow of air over the wings of aircraft using both passive systems and electromechanical actuators. These systems can reduce friction on the fuselage during cruising flight, enhance the lift force at take-off or otherwise optimize the performance of aircraft. Such improvements could reduce fuel consumption, lower emissions, prevent noise pollution and improve the economics of the aircraft industry. Lavoie and his team collaborate with manufacturers such as Bombardier and Airbus to incorporate their innovations into the next generation of commercial aircraft. In 2010 Lavoie received an Early Researcher Award from the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation. He is the Associate Director (Research) at UTIAS and Associate Director of the Centre for Research in Sustainable Aviation.

Professor Alison McGuigan (ChemE) – Erwin Edward Hart Professor in Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry

McGuiganProfessor McGuigan received her PhD at the University of Toronto and completed postdoctoral research at Harvard University and Stanford University before joining U of T Engineering in 2009. She specializes in developing systems to grow human tissues outside the body. These lab-grown tissues provide new ways to study human diseases, including cancer, and could serve as testing platforms for new drugs or other therapies. McGuigan and her team recently developed a way to grow cancer cells in an unrollable sheet, allowing for faster and more detailed analysis than previous culture methods. In 2013, McGuigan received the Young Investigator Award from the Tissue Engineering International Regenerative Medicine Society (TERMIS).

Professor Jonathan Rocheleau (IBBME) – Percy Edward Hart Professor in Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering

Rocheleau-sizedProfessor Rocheleau received his PhD from Western University and was a Research Assistant Professor at Vanderbilt University before joining U of T Engineering in 2008. His research focuses on new tools and techniques to study the biochemical mechanisms that underpin human cell function. These tools include organ-on-a-chip technology, advanced molecular imaging in living tissues, as well as the design of fluorescent molecular probes to measure the metabolic functioning of cells under the microscope. By gaining a better understanding of what goes wrong in diseases such as diabetes or cancer, Rocheleau’s work can help usher in more effective treatments. Rocheleau serves as Associate Director of Research in IBBME.

Professor Chandra Veer Singh (MSE) – Erwin Edward Hart Professor in Materials Science and Engineering

Chandra-Veer-SinghProfessor Singh received his PhD in Aerospace Engineering from Texas A&M University and conducted postdoctoral research at Cornell University before joining U of T Engineering in 2011. He specializes in designing new materials using computer models and simulations that optimize weight, catalytic activity or other properties. Such materials could lower costs and reduce emissions from the transportation industry by enabling aircraft and other vehicle to be made from strong yet lightweight components. They could also advance sustainability by catalysing the production of hydrogen for fuel, or the conversion of CO2 into useful chemical fuels such as methanol using sunlight. In 2016, Singh received an Early Researcher Award from Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation and in 2015, he was part of the U of T Solar Fuels team that won the Connaught Global Challenge Award.

CivMin’s Grads to Watch

Grads to watch: Ernesto Diaz Lozano Patino, Gege Wen and Bishnu Gautam
This is an excerpt from a longer story, originally posted on Engineering News.

For these U of T Engineering students, the short walk across the stage at Convocation Hall marks both the end of one journey and the beginning of another. This year’s “Grads to Watch” are just a few of the talented Engineering graduates who will receive their degrees at Spring Convocation on June 8. Selected by their home departments, each of these remarkable future Skule™ alumni has made their own unique contribution to enhancing the vibrant community in U of T Engineering—watch their next steps.

Ernesto Diaz Lozano Patiño (CivE 1T5 + PEY)

Leaving a legacy of inspiration

Ernesto-Diaz-Lozano-Patino-sizedDiaz Lozano Patiño grew up in Mexico City, in a family where his father, uncle, great-uncle and great-grandfather were all engineers. He sums up his U of T experience in one word: inspiring. “It is incredible to see young, motivated people working hard to solve some of the most complex problems of our world,” he says. “We have people working on cutting edge treatment for cancer, innovative transportation systems, renewable energy sources and much more.”

During his undergrad, he joined the Engineering Society as a representative from Civil Engineering, and pioneered the use of focus groups to foster effective communication between students and the Faculty. He served as president of the Engineering Society for 2015-2016. He was also a founding member of the first chapter of the Canadian Electrical Contractors Association. Following graduation, Diaz Lozano Patiño will begin his MASc with Professor Jeffrey Siegel (CivE), studying building science and indoor air quality. He also plans to to work with other engineers to further develop leadership in the profession, so that “engineers can be more active in shaping the future of our world.”

Shout out: “I’d like to thank all my professors for having been inspiring role models, who have challenged me to think critically and made me reflect deeply on the importance of the Engineering profession.”

Gege Wen (MinE 1T5 + PEY)

Deep thinker

Gege-Wen-sizedWen completed her PEY internship at Husky Energy, where she first heard of deep well injection to dispose of wastewater. She soon learned that deep well injection has also been proposed as a means to store CO2 underground, reducing the impact of greenhouse gas emissions. However, there is still much that is not known about the long-term stability of the method.

When she returned to U of T, Wen worked with ProfessorJennifer Drake (CivE) to undertake a detailed analysis of the risks and opportunities for deep well injection and CO2 sequestration. Wen plans to continue this research next fall, when she begins her MASc at Stanford University, working with Professor Peter Kitanidis on an inter-disciplinary project that combines CO2 sequestration with enhanced oil recovery.

Shout out: “I want to thank Professor Jennifer Drake. She is a great mentor and her guidance through my research was immensely helpful to my future as a researcher.

Bishnu Gautam (CivE PhD 1T6)

The concrete doctor

Bishnu-Gautam-sizedGautam studied with Professor Daman Panesar (CivE), where he looked for new ways to prevent damage to concrete structures. In particular, he focused on a process known as an alkali-silica reaction. “It is a chemical reaction that causes expansion and cracking in the concrete,” says Gautam. “Once it occurs, complete cure is almost impossible.”

Gautam built a system that could simulate the three-dimensional stresses on various concrete structures and investigated the damage caused by the alkali-silica reaction under these stresses. His research could help civil engineers understand the damage caused by alkali-silica reaction in the context of real structures, and take the appropriate actions before it’s too late.

Gautam, who came to U of T from Nepal, wants to use his degree to bridge the knowledge and technological gap between developed and developing nations. “I hope to promote precast and pre-stressed concrete in developing countries like mine, where such technologies are in their infancy,” he says.

Shout out: “I would like to thank Prof. Panesar for her support, encouragement and most importantly the confidence she put on me. I appreciate the support of my supervisory committee and exam committee members and I am very grateful for the opportunity to work with them.”