University of Toronto Living Labs: Human-Built Environment Interactions for Environmental and Human Sustainability

A team of 10 SBEPA researchers is working to submit a funding application to the Canadian Foundation for Innovation (Innovation Fund), in order to instrument six University of Toronto Living Labs. The six designated Labs are listed in Table 1, recently approved by the President’s Advisory Committee on the Environment, Climate Change and Sustainability (CECCS)).

Table 1: Approved UofT Living Labs:

UofT Campus New Project Retrofit Project
Scarborough Passive house residence University Farm
St. George Academic Tower Physical Geography building
Mississauga Science building Recreation, Athletics, & Wellness Centre

SBEPA researchers, drawn from four Faculties, have developed a powerful conceptual framework for creating more extensive monitoring and assessment, with an aim to improvement, based on the definition of the three performance gaps (Figure 1).

Researchers plan to develop a new integrated standard for the design of sustainable academic buildings and infrastructure, that has mutually supportive benefits for human wellbeing and environmental performance. The standard is intended to have implications for other urban settings. This research agenda has the support and ongoing engagement of the University itself through UofT Operations, Facilities and Services, and Sustainability, which includes members who also sit on the President’s Advisory Committee on Climate Change and Sustainability.

The first phase of the research project is to come to grips with the shape and scale of the performance gaps, by leveraging a diverse set of controlled building contexts at the University of Toronto. This requires the installation of advanced sensoring, monitoring, and processing tools, beyond what UofT will typically install, into six new and retrofit Living Lab buildings.

Instrumenting these Living Labs will enable the second phase, to conduct novel interdisciplinary quantitative and qualitative analyses, that explore the causes and implications of performance gaps and advancements in human-building interactions. Wewill quantitatively measure gaps, and allow feedback to modify performance, providing a continual loop to optimize the performance of the building, the site, and its occupants.

The third phase will involve the translation of this knowledge and capacity throughout stakeholder domains and into other built environment contexts.

This Living Lab project is unprecedented in the world in size and research scope. The research will serve advanced R&D in architecture, engineering, and human research, by developing new technologies, simulations and models for sensing, prototyping, validating and cultivating solutions in sustainable building and resilient urban systems—and in public health, productivity, public policy, and innovation.

The built projects themselves will enable continual assessment and optimization, providing rich future research opportunities in multiple disciplines. The research also critically provides an opportunity to follow through on Federal and Provincial commitments to climate change initiatives, providing a template and resource to leverage a wide body of cognate research and application, on and off campus.

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