Congratulations to Prof. Zach Colbert, who has received a $250,000 grant from the New Frontiers in Research Fund. This highly competative new fund enables leading-edge research not traditionally supported in the past. The innovative fund encourages researchers to cross the boundaries of their disciplines and interact with other researchers. Taking a multidisciplinary approach to research can have positive impacts on society, regulatory frameworks and economic development. Prof. Colbert will publicly announce the project at the Ontario Association of Architect’s Annual Conference SHIFT Awards ceremony on May 24th.
Prof. Colbert is the Principal Investigator for the grant and along with Dr. Jean Duquette in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Dr. Alexandra Mallett at the School of Public Policy and Administration, Antonio Gioventu of the Condominium Homeowners Association of British Columbia, and an interdisciplinary team of graduate researchers will be addressing challenges presented by increasing urban populations and energy consumption over two years. The project will develop a gravity turbine prototype concept for energy recapture in tall residential buildings and will utilize public consultation with community partners, optimization tools, and architectural design to create a cross-disciplinary research platform and establish new narratives for energy efficiency in the built environment. The work will develop the application of intermittent power generation technology to building wastewater systems through the design of a gravity turbine prototype concept for field application at a secured test site in Vancouver, British Columbia. This research is in partnership with BC Housing and the Condominium Homeowners Association of British Columbia who will provide access to local communities, resources, and sites. The research is carried out through hands-on data collection and public consultation in an interdisciplinary program bridging the fields of mechanical engineering, public policy and architecture. This research will assess the techno-economic feasibility of implementing a gravity turbine in a building wastewater system, gauge social acceptance and the appropriateness of existing policy mechanisms and the potential for alternatives, and establish innovative and equitable strategies for 21st century affordable urban housing design.
On the one hand, the built environment is the single largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. On the other hand, climate change adaptation is precisely the sort of multi-scalar problem where the application of architectural thinking can catalyze new approaches and new methods of problem solving. In a simplistic sense, architectural thinking can be very democratizing in liberating new ways for people to understand climate change and create new, lightweight institutions, initiatives and organizations that focus on civic purpose in addressing the local effects and requirements of climate change adaptation in the built environment. These forms of civic entrepreneurship link social capital with investment capital to create small, but realizable impact. The role of the architecture profession should expand to engage recognizing and facilitating these connections, seeding them and helping them to grow. We have utilized architectural thinking in this project to imagine a near-future city, where individual buildings operate as power stations—self-sufficient nodes that store, capture and produce clean energy. – Zach Colbert.
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