Advancing a sustainable future
Research partnership to improve the built environment
Five Concordia researchers are part of a multidisciplinary group awarded a combined $8.6 million from the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada and other partners. Their unprecedented research project, titled Quality in Canada’s Built Environment: Roadmaps to Equity, Social Value and Sustainability, will help increase the quality of Canada’s built environment.
Carmela Cucuzzella, professor of design and computation arts, Ursula Eicker, professor of building, civil and environmental engineering, Cynthia Hammond, professor of art history, Meghan Joy, associate professor of political science, and Carly Ziter, assistant professor of biology, make up the university’s team members.
“Concordia’s involvement in the partnership has been crucial to building this network,” says Cucuzzella, Concordia University Research Chair in Integrated Design, Ecology and Sustainability for the Built Environment and founding co-director of the Next-Generation Cities Institute along with Eicker. “Our team of five women scholars is a true model for interdisciplinary and critical approaches on issues of quality in the built environment.”
Next-Generation Cities Institute’s sustainability focus
Concordia’s Next-Generation Cities Institute (NGCI), which focuses on transdisciplinary collaboration to shape sustainable urban development, had a productive year.
The institute welcomed seven new partner organizations, which will work together on diverse projects such as developing smart and sustainable infrastructure and designing zero-carbon urban solutions.
The Climate Montreal Partnership, a zero-carbon buildings accelerator with ties to the NGCI, was launched in 2022. The accelerator will provide developers with tools and resources to make the entire industry more sustainable, and aims to multiply low-emission, climate-resilient construction and renovation projects in Montreal’s commercial and residential areas.
Ursula Eicker, institute co-director and Canada Excellence Research Chair in Smart, Sustainable and Resilient Cities and Communities, and PhD student Natalie Voland, president of Montreal-based real estate developer Gestion Immobiliere Quo Vadis, initiated the accelerator. The partnership groups some 100 Montreal economic, institutional, community and philanthropic organizations committed to meeting the challenge of reducing Montreal’s greenhouse gas emissions by 55 per cent by 2030.
Voland was author of a paper published in the journal Sustainability that used real-world examples to lay out the obstacles, opportunities and realities of sustainable real estate development. Voland and co-authors Eicker and Concordia Public Scholar Mostafa Saad presented practical incentives local governments can offer to encourage private green real estate development.
Saad is researching city-scale decarbonization strategies for buildings. He explains that his research asks: “How can we make buildings more energy efficient and at the same time lower their carbon footprint by renovating or retrofitting them? And how can we find a scalable methodology that can be applied to other buildings?”
Concordia and BMO partner for innovative sustainability-linked loan
Concordia entered into a sustainability-linked financing deal with BMO Financial Group. The amendment to an existing credit agreement introduces a mechanism tied to the alignment of the university’s assets under management with sustainable and impact investments.
This sustainability-linked loan underpins the university’s commitment to advancing sustainability in its operations, management, research and curriculum. “We were the first university in North America to issue a sustainable bond,” says Graham Carr. “And now I’m thrilled that we’re once again the first university in Canada to conclude a sustainability-linked loan arrangement with BMO.”
5th best in the world for Sustainable Cities and Communities
Concordia maintained its spot among the best 100 universities — 96th overall out of 1,406 institutions — in the 2022 Times Higher Education (THE) Impact Rankings, which tracks the progress of the international higher education sector toward helping achieve the SDGs. The university placed fifth in the world and second in Canada in the Sustainable Cities and Communities category, which measures universities’ sustainability research, role in supporting arts and heritage, and internal approaches to sustainable practices.
Diplomats visit Concordia to discuss its approach to sustainability
Diplomats from the five Nordic countries added Concordia to the itinerary of their November visit to Montreal. Concordia experts and the ambassadors of Iceland, Denmark, Finland and Sweden and the deputy head of mission for the Norwegian Embassy discussed multidisciplinary approaches to tackling the climate crisis, the university’s work on renewable energy and decarbonization and the similar ongoing work in the Nordic region. They also explored the potential for collaboration on future initiatives.
Bringing together biology, genomics, social science and Indigenous knowledge
Monica Mulrennan, professor of geography, planning and environment, and Dylan Fraser, professor of biology, are among the dynamic group of researchers contributing to a large-scale partnership looking for ways to best protect and nourish fisheries in Canada’s northern Indigenous communities. The project, FISHES (Fostering Indigenous Small-scale fisheries for Health, Economy, and food Security), bridges Indigenous knowledge with science in part to foster the development and co-management of sustainable northern fisheries.
“This project will contribute to our ability to address critical challenges and opportunities related to food security and fisheries conservation and development for northern Indigenous communities, including impacts related to climate change,” says Mulrennan.
Humans are adapting to climate change, but not quickly enough
A study by the Global Adaptation Mapping Initiative, an international network of researchers, concludes that individual responses to the threats of climate change have been piecemeal and inadequate. In an article published in Nature Climate Change, the authors, including Alexandra Lesnikowski, assistant professor of geography, planning and environment, find significant areas where global efforts need improvement. The research revealed that while people are responding, it remains unclear if these responses are reducing overall risks, and the responses have not yet resulted in significant transformative change.
“Most of the adaptations being documented are at the very local level, including individuals, households and local governments,” Lesnikowski says.