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3rd Climate Change Technology Conference

May 28, 2013
By Mark Witten


How can small wind turbines be best designed to produce energy for office buildings in urban settings? Can fuel storage systems for zero-emission hydrogen fuel cell cars be engineered to minimize safety risks for occupants and the environment? Is it feasible to build a rooftop greenhouse on a commercial building that can produce vegetables and surplus energy to heat
an adjoining building in a cold climate like Montreal?

[Conference photos are available on the Faculty flickr page.]

Those are just three examples of engineering innovations for sustainability presented at the EIC (Engineering Institute of Canada) Climate Change Technology Conference 2013, hosted at Concordia University from May 27 to May 29. Concordia engineering graduate students had an opportunity to present their papers at a leading-edge Canadian and international forum for the exchange of ideas on climate change.

"The students are excited about their work and it's very motivating for them to present their results to an audience like this," says Marius Paraschivoiu, professor in mechanical and industrial engineering. Paraschivoiu is the main conference organizer and holds a research chair in the production and storage of clean energy.

Paraschivoiu-David-Ward Marius Paraschivoiu. Photo: David Ward

The conference featured peer-reviewed presentations from leading scientists on a wide range of topics such as mitigating greenhouse gas emissions, the Canadian Arctic, extreme events and disaster management, and net-zero energy buildings. "This was the first time the conference was held in Quebec. We want to get engineers and engineering students talking about climate change, and to learn more about the opportunities for them to contribute practical solutions and have an impact in many different ways," says Paraschivoiu.

A global view on climate change and economic issues was covered by keynote speaker Donald Johnston, who was a cabinet minister in the Canadian government and secretary-general of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), where he created the OECD Ministerial Round Table on Sustainable Development. Other notable speakers included Norwegian Ambassador to Canada, Mona Elisabeth Brother, and a roster of international and Canadian experts in the Food and Population, Water and Energy plenary sessions.

Diane Bastien, a doctoral student in building engineering with a specialization in solar energy, helped to review the papers submitted and organized three sessions for the Net-Zero Energy Buildings and Communities track at the conference. Bastien presented a research paper on the potential net energy benefits that can result from attaching optimally designed solariums or rooftop greenhouses to large commercial and institutional buildings and houses in Quebec.

Diane-Bastien-HR Diane Bastien. Photo: Concordia University

"I developed a model to design rooftop greenhouses attached to buildings so they become net energy producers rather than energy sinks. By careful design and using high quality materials, it's possible to retrofit existing buildings with greenhouses to generate surplus heat and grow vegetables while offering additional floor area," says Bastien.

The award-winning student also found that covering one per cent of commercial and institutional buildings in Quebec with rooftop greenhouses could provide enough vegetables to feed 300,000 people without increasing the province's total energy consumption. Bastien used building simulation software to model the net energy impacts of different designs. This summer she plans to build a small solarium and run experiments to assess the energy impacts in Concordia's spectacular new Solar Simulator-Environmental Chamber lab, a facility that will be showcased to conference participants.

Graduate students from Paraschivoiu's lab presented papers on hydrogen storage system safety and vertical axis small wind turbines to produce energy on small farmsand in cities. While some concepts presented at the conference -- like Bastien's rooftop greenhouse -- are applicable today, others will take more time to be realized. "Our lab generally works on medium-term solutions, not short-term or long-term. We do research for technologies that will happen in the next 5 or 20 years, not 200 years," says Paraschivoiu.

A modified version of this article appears in the Spring/Summer edition of Concordia Engineering News, the newsletter for the Faculty of Engineering and Computer Science.

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