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Jenn McArthur, Ryerson University

Jenn McArthur

Associate Professor, Department of Architectural Science, Ryerson University

Dr. Seth Dworkin

Professor & Canada Research Chair, Department of Mechanical & Industrial Engineering, Ryerson University

Dr. Umberto Berardi

Associate Professor, Department of Architectural Science, Ryerson University

Ryerson University’s work on renewable energy sources, ground-breaking building materials, and more make the institution a leader in cleantech innovation.

Global populations are increasingly mobile and concentrated in urban centres. With our collective future tied to climate change and the fate of cities, the health of our urban environments relies on innovative solutions to complex and often interlinked social, economic, political, environmental, cultural, and technological challenges.

Ryerson researchers are actively seeking new ways to ensure that cities are safe, resilient, and sustainable. Their innovations in clean technology — or cleantech — in particular are essential in our efforts to address climate change.

Building cities, the smart way

As an urban university located in downtown Toronto, smart city building is a big focus at Ryerson — and cleantech innovation is an integral piece of the puzzle. The university provides support for pioneering researchers who are passionate about building cities that are greener, more sustainable, more energy-efficient, and more accessible, and who are addressing real-world challenges to drive economic growth and improve quality of life for Canadians.

“The culture at Ryerson is that we’re city-builders,” says Jenn McArthur, an associate professor in Ryerson’s Department of Architectural Science. “The research that we do is really applied.”

McArthur is one of the researchers at Ryerson working collaboratively to develop sustainable solutions for the building industry. While she takes a digital approach, using data analytics and machine learning algorithms to optimize buildings’ energy performance and lower their environmental impact, her peers approach the industry from different angles, including working with novel materials, renewable energy, and more.

Developing a smarter, greener building sector

“One of the biggest challenges in the green building industry is improving the performance of existing buildings,” says McArthur. “In Toronto, like anywhere else in the world, our buildings are predominantly much older. They were built to different energy standards.” Working with industry partners, McArthur is developing a community energy reduction tool to simulate and map the energy usage of building clusters.

Dr. Umberto Berardi, an associate professor in Ryerson’s Department of Architectural Science, is a building materials innovator. He develops and tests novel construction materials like aerogel — a material that’s traditionally used in the aerospace industry.

“Aerogel is getting more affordable thanks to some innovations we’re developing, and it promises to be a material that can be used for insulating buildings,” he says. “What it does is give you a high-performance building enclosure within a thickness of just one centimetre.” Aerogel is the world’s most effective thermal insulator, and its application to construction provides impressive energy savings.

One of the biggest challenges in the green building industry is improving the performance of existing buildings.

Investing in a sustainable future

Dr. Seth Dworkin, a Ryerson professor of mechanical and industrial engineering and Canada Research Chair, focuses on the mechanical side of green building. He’s working to advance clean technologies for building energy.

“Building heating is one of the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions in Canada,” says Dr. Dworkin. “It’s comparable to all of Canada’s transportation. For a sustainable future, especially one that’s heading toward net-zero emissions, we need to get off of fossil fuels in building heating.”

Dr. Dworkin notes that the current ways to do this — including existing geothermal technologies — are too expensive to be widespread. “That’s the focus of my research — advancing technologies like solar and geothermal so they’re competitive with natural gas,” he says.

Dr. Dworkin and his team of graduate students and postdoctoral fellows are creating new design methods for geo-exchange, which involves pumping heat out of a building and into the ground in the summer and then pumping it back up in the winter. It’s a clean, efficient way of moving heat around rather than generating it. 

Together, the researchers at Ryerson are changing the face of the green building industry. The university’s forward-thinking innovations and research have also made it a prime candidate for partnerships with government, industry, not-for-profit organizations, communities, and individuals.

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