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The Sustainability Action Fund recognizes 12 outstanding and environmentally conscious student projects

The award-winning initiatives come from across Concordia’s four faculties
May 29, 2020
By Rebecca Black

Twelve research projects involving 26 Concordia students have been chosen as the 2019-20 Sustainability Research Awards recipients. The research projects, based in the university’s four academic faculties, address environmental-related themes of waste, climate change, and sustainable production and consumption, as well as social sustainability themes of community development, food security and sovereignty, and labour issues.

The Sustainability Research Awards received its most applications since its inception three years ago. The Sustainability Action Fund (SAF), which facilitates the awards, rewarded five graduate research projects $1,500 each and seven undergraduate research projects $800 each.

“The committee was overwhelmed by the number of deserving applications it received, which ultimately made the decisions incredibly difficult,” says Sebastiàn Di Poi, executive director of the SAF.

“What this demonstrates, however, is how committed the faculties and students at Concordia are to advancing research in sustainability.”

The Sustainability Research Awards started three years ago as a collaboration between the SAF and Concordia’s Faculty of Arts and Science, and the Faculty of Fine Arts joined the effort in 2019.

The awards are presented to both undergraduate and graduate students doing environmental or social sustainability research in their coursework or theses. To be eligible, the research must contribute to campus-specific sustainability topics or initiatives. This encourages the creation of a living laboratory — a collaborative process between researchers and potential end-users or beneficiaries.

For the first two years, SAF held a ceremony for the award recipients and their work. Unfortunately, this year’s event had to be cancelled due to the COVID-19 crisis.

“Although it’s a shame we weren’t able to celebrate our recipients in person this year due to the Concordia’s closure in March, we will be sharing these students’ research and its progress through our website and social media,” says Di Poi. “We invite the Concordia community to keep an eye on these projects as they set their roots at Concordia and advance sustainability through their research.”


Undergraduate fine arts students Shelagh McNally, Joé Côté-Rancourt, E. James Spielmaker and Anne Devatour took home one of the awards for their research creation, “Enhancing the VA Green Space Towards Sustainability.”

The team hopes to create a living lab and gather data for Concordia’s Canada Excellence Research Chair in Smart, Sustainable and Resilient Communities and Cities. As well, they will use their research to propose two green eco-therapy spaces in the Visual Arts (VA) Building courtyard, located on the corner or René Lévesque Boulevard and Crescent Street.

The group sees the courtyard as one of the few green spaces left in the Montreal’s downtown core and on the Sir George Williams Campus.

“Both the garden and courtyard are enjoyed by Concordia students, faculty and staff as well as nearby residents,” the group wrote of the project. “The current construction in the VA courtyard removed most of the green and presents an unique opportunity to rebuild the space so it can realize its eco-therapy potential.”

The group also received support from the Eric St-Pierre Sustainability Student Project Fund, which awards an additional $1,500 to students hoping to implement their greenhouse-gas-reducing projects on campus.

Concordia eco spinning gym

One of the graduate awards went to Gelareh Barkhordari, Soroursadat Mirghafouri, Abdul Razack Abdul Khader and Kalve Saqlane Mehdi from the Gina Cody School of Engineering and Computer Science. The group is researching best way to add a generator, converter and inverter to the spin bikes at Concordia’s Le Gym.

When a person uses a spin bike, the rotation provided by the wheel yields kinetic energy that can then be transferred to a generator to produce high-voltage power.

“By retrofitting the bikes, the kinetic energy wasted as one exercises in the gym can be harnessed and used as a source of electricity,” the group wrote. “This idea has been implemented in certain gyms in the U.S. but none in Quebec, which could make Concordia’s the first ever human-powered gym in the province.”

The group’s research is under the supervision of Fuzhan Nasiri, associate professor of building, civil and environmental engineering. They found that the spin bikes could generate enough electricidal power to light up to three Le Gym studios.

Find out about all the recipients of Concordia’s 2019-20 Sustainability Research Awards.



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