Heat, housing and health: Marianne Touchie and the complexity of multi-unit residential buildings

Professor Marianne Touchie (CivE, MIE) is working with Toronto Community Housing and The Atmospheric Fund to better understand how changes to energy use affect indoor environmental quality in multi-unit residential buildings. Toronto Public Health is collaborating to use their data to inform policy. (Photo: Kevin Soobrian)

Professor Marianne Touchie (CivE, MIE) is working with Toronto Community Housing and The Atmospheric Fund to better understand how changes to energy use affect indoor environmental quality in multi-unit residential buildings. Toronto Public Health is collaborating to use their data to inform policy. (Photo: Kevin Soobrian)

Professor Marianne Touchie (CivE, MIE) is working with Toronto Community Housing and The Atmospheric Fund to better understand how changes to energy use affect indoor environmental quality in multi-unit residential buildings. Toronto Public Health is collaborating to use their data to inform policy. (Photo: Kevin Soobrian)


This story originally appeared at U of T Engineering News

This story is a part of a  five-part #RisingStars series, highlighting the work of our early-career professors.

In cities from coast to coast, condominium towers are being constructed at an unprecedented rate, with 30,000 new units added in 2015 to the Toronto market alone. This is driven both by recent advances in the design, engineering and construction of tall buildings, and a stark increase in demand for these multi-unit residential buildings (MURBs). “More people are moving downtown,” says Professor Marianne Touchie (CivE, MIE). “There’s very limited space, so we need high-density housing options and MURBs provide that.”

With a background in building science, Touchie studies the relationships between energy efficiency and indoor environment quality parameters, such as thermal comfort, in these high-density buildings. In Toronto, one of the largest suppliers of MURBs is Toronto Community Housing Corporation (TCHC), which owns 50 million square feet of residential space and houses 110,000 residents. Many of these are older buildings without air conditioning.

“A lot of these buildings rely on ventilation through the building envelope, which is not terribly effective. At the same time, we need to reduce our energy consumption and energy use,” she says. “But reducing energy usage has implications for occupants, and that’s what I’m interested in studying.”

Touchie is currently collaborating with The Atmospheric Fund (formerly the Toronto Atmospheric Fund) on a large research project—one that she has been involved with since her role as their Building Research Manager from 2014 to 2015. She and her colleagues are collecting data on energy consumption, temperature, humidity and carbon dioxide concentration in more than 70 apartments spanning seven different TCHC buildings.

“It’s probably the most comprehensive MURB monitoring project in North America, if not the world,” says Touchie.

They are also working with Professor Jeffrey Siegel (CivE), who is examining concentrations of formaldehyde, particulate matter and, through a partnership with Health Canada, radon concentrations. Touchie says that collaborations, such as those with TCHC, The Atmospheric Fund and Siegel, are critical to creating a comprehensive picture of the MURBs she studies. “Buildings are so complex,” says Touchie. “I have training in one particular area, but I’m not an indoor air quality expert. When we make changes from an energy perspective to the ventilation system, or the heating and cooling system, it has an influence on the air quality. Working with other experts, like Professor Siegel, we can gather data on all sides.”

Touchie’s findings with The Atmospheric Fund and TCHC have drawn the interest of Toronto Public Health. The agency is interested in the health impact of extreme heat, and the study has found that these TCHC buildings are often overheated, especially in the summer.

“Extreme heat is a health problem, especially for the most vulnerable populations,” says Sarah Gingrich, a Health Policy Specialist at Toronto Public Health. Very young children, the elderly and people with illnesses or taking certain medications are most at risk. “This work is providing evidence that excessive heat is a problem in older apartment buildings in Toronto. The research is showing that although the temperature cools down at night outside, in these buildings it rises during the day and they stay hot all night long.”

Touchie and her collaborators are finding that a major culprit for the inefficient heating and cooling performance is uncontrolled air leakage. These leaks often occur around windows, doors, exhaust fans and elevator shafts. But inefficiencies aren’t just a building issue: she adds that “because people can do whatever they want in their own homes, like open and close their windows, MURBs combine the complexity of high-rise buildings with the occupant wild card,” which makes managing the indoor environment even trickier.

“The study provides valuable information on Toronto apartment buildings that will help to inform policy development,” says Toronto Public Health’s Gingrich. “It fills a very important gap by providing up-to-date data that highlights some of the challenges in this type of building, and points to potential solutions.”

Next, Touchie hopes to expand her research to newer condos, where data is even scarcer. “They’re going up so quickly, and we really have no information about the quality of the indoor environment or their energy performance,” she says. “I am very curious whether their energy consumption matches the performance level promised at the design stage.”

Learning Water Systems at CAMP

Of all the courses Prof. Jennifer Drake has taught, CME358 – better known as Survey Camp – at Gull Lake is her favourite, in particular a special tutorial Drake runs: Marshmallow Roasting 101.CIV201 Sept 2015 Campfire - Sleep photo
“Civil and Mineral Practicals (CAMP)–Survey Camp– is by far the most rewarding course to teach,” says Drake.

For any professor teaching environmental engineering, translating course material into real-world applications is difficult in an urban setting. “CAMP is a microcosm of everything that you use in a city; natural water systems, drinking water and waste water systems. While at camp we focus on water modules, hydrologic and topographical work, lake profiles, and soil identification.”
“Students learn in a real-time, life-size setting. They understand how the concepts and theories they learn in class relate to the real world,” explains Drake. “The experience helps students become well-rounded, better developed, passionate people which is what we want for our engineers.”Drake notes that there is a big difference between learning about stream gauging compared with doing it; having access to property north of the city is an invaluable tool and tremendous opportunity.

“Students have told me that camp is the most beautiful place they’ve ever visited; the wealth of Canada in terms of lakes and healthy nature really puts things in perspective. Our student population is highly urban, so survey camp is a unique experience for our students, one that creates memories and long-lasting learning.”20150812_155912

 

About CAMP

CME358, Civil and Mineral Practicals (CAMP) is a required course for all Civil and Mineral Engineering undergraduate students. The two-week camp instructs students in the art and science of land surveying, engineering project management, geology, hydrology, water treatment, woodlot management and sustainable energy.

Two new faculty are cross appointed with CivE and MIE

Two new faculty members join Civil and, Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Collaboration is the key to success and the driving factor behind the hiring of two new professors that are cross-appointed with the Departments of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, and Civil Engineering. Professors Marianne Touchie (CivE, MIE) and Fae Azhari (MIE, CivE) joined the Faculty at the beginning of July. Professor Touchie completed a BASc and PhD in Civil Engineering at the University of Toronto. Her research focuses on improving the energy performance and indoor environmental quality of existing buildings to make them more comfortable, healthy and sustainable through comprehensive retrofits. Professor Azhari holds degrees in Civil Engineering from Isfahan University of Technology and University of British Columbia, Industrial Engineering from UC Berkeley, and Structural Engineering and Mechanics from UC Davis. She specializes in structural health monitoring (SHM) of engineering systems. U of T Engineering spoke with the new professors to find out more about their research and what they’re looking forward to at U of T: Fae Azhari Could you explain the focus of your research? My work focuses on SHM of engineering systems. Similar to the way a doctor would point out when an organ is malfunctioning in a patient’s body during regular check-ups, SHM is able to diagnose and locate any anomalies in an engineering system. Since this diagnosis happens at a very early stage, the remedial procedure will usually be timely and cost effective. My goal is to address some of the gaps in the succession of tasks from sensor development to implementation and decision making. Why did you choose U of T? Long before pursuing academia, I visited Toronto and the campus here. The historical feel and the intellectual vibe stayed in my mind. I’m so happy to be working here now. My research field is multidisciplinary, and having access to the many great resources, facilities, colleagues and mentors at U of T will be extremely valuable in advancing my research and career. What are you most looking forward to in your new position? I like the sense of collegiality at U of T and look forward to effective collaborations with other researchers. As a new professor, what one piece of advice would you give to new students? At university you are often your own teacher so expect to be treated that way. Try to be proactive and do not be afraid to ask questions. What do you hope to accomplish in your new position/during your time at U of T Engineering? I hope to one day truly ‘profess’ my subject.; to understand the old and new bodies of knowledge in such a way that I can properly judge their significance and place in the grand scheme of things. Marianne Touchie Could you explain the focus of your research? My research focuses on the question of how do we improve the quality of our indoor environment as we strive for greater energy efficiency? Making buildings more comfortable and healthy often come at an energy cost. Why did you choose U of T? U of T is my alma mater so I am well aware of the significance and impact of the research done here and I am looking forward to collaborating with so many talented colleagues and students in both the lab and the classroom. What are you most looking forward to in your new position? With a cross appointment between Civil Engineering and Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, I’m excited to bring together students from across disciplines. As a new professor, what one piece of advice would you give to new students? Allow yourself to wrestle with a problem before asking for help. It is effortless to use Google or message someone to find an answer. But this process doesn’t improve your own ability to problem solve, think critically or take your own position on an issue. During your time at U of T you will gain plenty of technical knowledge but transferable skills like problem solving will be of the most valuable after graduation. What do you hope to accomplish in your new position/during your time at U of T Engineering? Within Civil Engineering, I would like to continue growing the Canadian Centre for Building Excellence (CCBE) with Professors Kim Pressnail and Jeffrey Siegel into a world-renowned research centre for healthy, energy efficient buildings. I would also like to create stronger links through multidisciplinary design courses which will give students an opportunity to tackle today’s important problems with colleagues from a variety of technical backgrounds.

Two new faculty members join Civil and, Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Collaboration is the key to success and the driving factor behind the hiring of two new professors that are cross-appointed with the Departments of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, and Civil Engineering. Professors Marianne Touchie (CivE, MIE) and Fae Azhari (MIE, CivE) joined the Faculty at the beginning of July. Professor Touchie completed a BASc and PhD in Civil Engineering at the University of Toronto. Her research focuses on improving the energy performance and indoor environmental quality of existing buildings to make them more comfortable, healthy and sustainable through comprehensive retrofits. Professor Azhari holds degrees in Civil Engineering from Isfahan University of Technology and University of British Columbia, Industrial Engineering from UC Berkeley, and Structural Engineering and Mechanics from UC Davis. She specializes in structural health monitoring (SHM) of engineering systems. U of T Engineering spoke with the new professors to find out more about their research and what they’re looking forward to at U of T: Fae Azhari Could you explain the focus of your research? My work focuses on SHM of engineering systems. Similar to the way a doctor would point out when an organ is malfunctioning in a patient’s body during regular check-ups, SHM is able to diagnose and locate any anomalies in an engineering system. Since this diagnosis happens at a very early stage, the remedial procedure will usually be timely and cost effective. My goal is to address some of the gaps in the succession of tasks from sensor development to implementation and decision making. Why did you choose U of T? Long before pursuing academia, I visited Toronto and the campus here. The historical feel and the intellectual vibe stayed in my mind. I’m so happy to be working here now. My research field is multidisciplinary, and having access to the many great resources, facilities, colleagues and mentors at U of T will be extremely valuable in advancing my research and career. What are you most looking forward to in your new position? I like the sense of collegiality at U of T and look forward to effective collaborations with other researchers. As a new professor, what one piece of advice would you give to new students? At university you are often your own teacher so expect to be treated that way. Try to be proactive and do not be afraid to ask questions. What do you hope to accomplish in your new position/during your time at U of T Engineering? I hope to one day truly ‘profess’ my subject.; to understand the old and new bodies of knowledge in such a way that I can properly judge their significance and place in the grand scheme of things. Marianne Touchie Could you explain the focus of your research? My research focuses on the question of how do we improve the quality of our indoor environment as we strive for greater energy efficiency? Making buildings more comfortable and healthy often come at an energy cost. Why did you choose U of T? U of T is my alma mater so I am well aware of the significance and impact of the research done here and I am looking forward to collaborating with so many talented colleagues and students in both the lab and the classroom. What are you most looking forward to in your new position? With a cross appointment between Civil Engineering and Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, I’m excited to bring together students from across disciplines. As a new professor, what one piece of advice would you give to new students? Allow yourself to wrestle with a problem before asking for help. It is effortless to use Google or message someone to find an answer. But this process doesn’t improve your own ability to problem solve, think critically or take your own position on an issue. During your time at U of T you will gain plenty of technical knowledge but transferable skills like problem solving will be of the most valuable after graduation. What do you hope to accomplish in your new position/during your time at U of T Engineering? Within Civil Engineering, I would like to continue growing the Canadian Centre for Building Excellence (CCBE) with Professors Kim Pressnail and Jeffrey Siegel into a world-renowned research centre for healthy, energy efficient buildings. I would also like to create stronger links through multidisciplinary design courses which will give students an opportunity to tackle today’s important problems with colleagues from a variety of technical backgrounds. Collaboration is the key to success and the driving factor behind the hiring of two new professors that are cross-appointed with the Departments of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, and Civil Engineering. Professors Marianne Touchie (CivE, MIE) and Fae Azhari (MIE, CivE) joined the Faculty at the beginning of July.

Professor Touchie completed a BASc and PhD in Civil Engineering at the University of Toronto. Her research focuses on improving the energy performance and indoor environmental quality of existing buildings to make them more comfortable, healthy and sustainable through comprehensive retrofits.

Professor Azhari holds degrees in Civil Engineering from Isfahan University of Technology and University of British Columbia, Industrial Engineering from UC Berkeley, and Structural Engineering and Mechanics from UC Davis. She specializes in structural health monitoring (SHM) of engineering systems.

U of T Engineering spoke with the new professors to find out more about their research and what they’re looking forward to at U of T:


Could you explain the focus of your research?

MT: My research focuses on the question of how do we improve the quality of our indoor environment as we strive for greater energy efficiency? Making buildings more comfortable and healthy often come at an energy cost.

FA: My work focuses on SHM of engineering systems. Similar to the way a doctor would point out when an organ is malfunctioning in a patient’s body during regular check-ups, SHM is able to diagnose and locate any anomalies in an engineering system. Since this diagnosis happens at a very early stage, the remedial procedure will usually be timely and cost effective. My goal is to address some of the gaps in the succession of tasks from sensor development to implementation and decision making.

Why did you choose U of T?

MT: U of T is my alma mater so I am well aware of the significance and impact of the research done here and I am looking forward to collaborating with so many talented colleagues and students in both the lab and the classroom.

FA: Long before pursuing academia, I visited Toronto and the campus here. The historical feel and the intellectual vibe stayed in my mind. I’m so happy to be working here now. My research field is multidisciplinary, and having access to the many great resources, facilities, colleagues and mentors at U of T will be extremely valuable in advancing my research and career.

What are you most looking forward to in your new position?

MT: With a cross appointment between Civil Engineering and Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, I’m excited to bring together students from across disciplines.

FA: I like the sense of collegiality at U of T and look forward to effective collaborations with other researchers.

As a new professor, what one piece of advice would you give to new students?

MT: Allow yourself to wrestle with a problem before asking for help. It is effortless to use Google or message someone to find an answer. But this process doesn’t improve your own ability to problem solve, think critically or take your own position on an issue. During your time at U of T you will gain plenty of technical knowledge but transferable skills like problem solving will be of the most valuable after graduation.

FA: At university you are often your own teacher so expect to be treated that way. Try to be proactive and do not be afraid to ask questions.

What do you hope to accomplish in your new position/during your time at U of T Engineering?

MT: Within Civil Engineering, I would like to continue growing the Canadian Centre for Building Excellence (CCBE) with Professors Kim Pressnail and Jeffrey Siegel into a world-renowned research centre for healthy, energy efficient buildings.
I would also like to create stronger links through multidisciplinary design courses which will give students an opportunity to tackle today’s important problems with colleagues from a variety of technical backgrounds.

FA: I hope to one day truly ‘profess’ my subject.; to understand the old and new bodies of knowledge in such a way that I can properly judge their significance and place in the grand scheme of things.

Six engineering innovations get a boost from NSERC Strategic Partnership Grants

This story originally posted on Engineering News.

New funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) will advance U of T Engineering research in sustainable energy, telecommunications and more.

On March 1, NSERC announced six Strategic Partnership Grants to help U of T engineers address some of the greatest challenges facing Canada and the world. The projects include new technologies to extract valuable minerals from hazardous mine tailings and systems to enable cities to repurpose stormwater more effectively. In total, the program invested more than $3.2 million in U of T Engineering and more than $5.3 million across the entire University.

The six funded projects are:

Elodie Passeport

Elodie Passeport (ChemE, CivE) — Smarter stormwater management

Heavy rainstorms like those that hit Toronto in July 2013 do more than damage basements — they also wash street-level pollution into local rivers and lakes. Nature deals with this problem through wetlands, which swell or shrink with the rains and which contain microorganisms that break down harmful substances. Bioretention cells are artificial structures designed to mimic this process in urban areas, yet for unknown reasons, some work better than others. Passeport and her team aim to pin down the hydrological, chemical, and physical processes that determine the performance of bioretention cells in order to optimize their design. Better stormwater management could prevent pollution from reaching the environment.

 

Barati-headshot

Mansoor Barati (MSE) — Reclaiming hazardous waste

The area around Sudbury, Ont. is surrounded by 50- to 100-million tonnes of liquid tailings left over from mining operations. This waste material poses environmental risks if left untreated. Yet it still contains useful elements such as nickel, iron and sulfur which continue to be in demand in manufacturing and other sectors. Barati and his team are developing a process that recovers these elements from the tailings and generates electricity at the same time. The process would provide a permanent solution for the waste as well as economic benefits to the mine and surrounding community.

 

Bazylak-headshot

Aimy Bazylak (MIE) — Hydrogen for clean, on-demand power

Environmentally friendly fuel cell vehicles run on hydrogen instead of gasoline, producing no emissions other than water and heat. Unfortunately, most hydrogen currently comes from natural gas, but it can also be extracted from water using electricity produced from renewable energy, such as the wind and sun. Polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) electolyzers are a technology that essentially operate like reverse fuel cells, extracting hydrogen and oxygen from water. Moreover, they can enable us to efficiently deal with the huge peaks and troughs of intermittent electricity generated from variable renewable sources, such as wind, solar and tidal power. This project aims to use the team’s existing expertise in PEM-based fuel cells to advance PEM electrolyzers for clean hydrogen generation.

 

Hum-headshot

Sean Hum (ECE) — Advanced Electromagnetic Surfaces for Next-Generation Communications Systems

The number of smartphones and connected tablets in the world is well into the billions and growing fast. Yet the wireless communications systems on which these devices depend use radio signals, and there are only so many frequencies to go around. Hum and his team develop advanced electromagnetic surfaces that can be used to redesign antennas, enabling more sophisticated control over radio signals. Used in satellites, these surfaces could dramatically improve communication capacity while reducing the size and weight of antennas. These surfaces can also be used in buildings, where they could improve reception and eliminate “dead zones.” By enabling more data to be transmitted wirelessly using the same bandwidth, the inventions will usher in the next generation of electronic communication.

 

Sargent-headshot

Ted Sargent (ECE) — Better lasers for transmitting digital information

Every time you upload a document, photo or video to the cloud your file is sent to a large collection of servers known as a datacentre. Within these datacentres, information is transmitted both electronically and optically. However, the devices that translate data between these two modes are inefficient, generating large amounts of waste heat and making datacentres enormous energy hogs. Using nano-sized particles called quantum dots, Sargent and his team are developing entirely new type of laser that is capable of being deposited directly on a silicon chip. The device will turn electrical impulses into light bursts in a much more efficient way, drastically reducing the amount of energy required to transmit data and the cost of cloud computing.

 

Sarris-headshot

Costas Sarris (ECE) — Redesigning train signalling for improved safety

Communications-Based Train Control (CBTC) is aimed at replacing conventional rail signalling with train control enabled by wireless communication between the train and a network of access points. In a cellular communication system, a network outage may cause a dropped call, but in a CBTC network it directly compromises the safety of train passengers. Therefore, these safety-critical systems must meet high standards of reliability, beyond those of typical communication networks. Sarris and his team, along withThales Canada, are developing a new paradigm for the design of CBTC systems with enhanced robustness and reliability. These systems can effectively serve the increasing need for rail transportation safety and efficiency shared by a growing number of Canadians, especially urban commuters in large metropolitan areas.

Hana Zalzal: Professional makeup maven

Hana Zalzal
Hana Zalzal

Hana Zalzal (CivE 8T8) is the founder of Cargo Cosmetics, a Toronto-based professional makeup line used by the industry’s top artists for TV and film.

This story appeared originally on U of T News.

This article is part three of a five-part series on #EngineeringtheUnexpected, in celebration of the firstGlobal Day of the Engineer on February 24, 2016

What do Hollywood stars Courtney Cox, Camryn Manheim, Lindsay Lohan and Debra Messing have in common? They have all designed custom lipstick shades for Cargo Cosmetics, a professional makeup line founded by alumna Hana Zalzal (CivE 8T8).

Zalzal worked as an engineer, marketer and financial analyst prior to founding and operating Cargo Cosmetics in 1995 from her home in North York, Ont. Over the past 20 years, Cargo has grown to become one of the most innovative and sought-after brands among professional makeup artists, celebrities and consumers worldwide.

Today, Cargo is a household name — its products have been featured in Time Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, and a multitude of fashion and beauty publications. Current hit television showsAmerican Horror Story, Girls, The Mindy Project and Modern Family, and films such as Insidious, Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland and Iron Man 2 have all used Cargo Cosmetics on set. They have also been included in official gift bags for prestigious events such as the Oscars, Emmys and Golden Globes.

True to its engineering roots, Cargo has even made an impact on the international design community: the company’s foundation pouch won a 2006 DuPont Award for Innovation in Packaging and a 2007 Red Dot Award for Product Design.

Zalzal attributes the key to Cargo’s success as never being satisfied with the status quo.

“For me, it was all about continually asking myself, ‘How can this be better?’” she said. “It was about the innovation, and the innovation that drove [Cargo] to continually seek new ways of presenting product. Sometimes it was in application, sometimes it was in formulation and sometimes it was in packaging.”

Zalzal was included on The Caldwell Partners list of Canada’s Top 40 under 40 in 2004 and received an Arbor Award for her outstanding personal service to the University of Toronto.

Watch this video from Bloomberg TV’s show Venture to learn more about Zalzal and her company.