The Living Lab program is researching solutions for more sustainable practices on campus

Research will take place virtually to adhere to COVID-19 guidelines

Photo Courtesy of Simon Fraser University

Written by: Emma Jean, Staff Writer

A new pilot program at SFU seeks practical solutions to on-campus sustainability. The Living Lab, a program consisting of graduate students and faculty, combines environmental research with hands-on learning to build ways for SFU to reach its sustainability goals, and to apply them to other communities all over the world. 

We want to engage in sustainability in all aspects of the university: teaching and learning; research; and operation,” said program leader Dr. Kilim Park. 

With a “solutions-seeking” model, the program focuses on four main goals aligned with the on-campus SFU’s 2025 Sustainability Plan: reducing waste, switching to renewable energy, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and lowering transportation pollution. Along with the direct environmental impact, Dr. Park also notes the program’s hopes to “create and foster research culture in our operational decision-making [ . . . ] showcase our talented graduate student and faculty researchers, and hope that SFU will continue to highlight and provide further support to climate action research.

“The Living Lab brings all of these elements together by facilitating the collaboration between researchers (graduate students and faculty) and practitioners (operations), and providing an opportunity for graduate student learning and research.” Graduate students who are chosen for the program in the coming months will plan and develop the inaugural projects for the program, all related to SFU’s sustainability goals, alongside faculty and staff. 

A collaboration between SFU Sustainability Office, the Vice-President, Research and International, and the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions, Dr. Park describes the program as a “unique environment where the university as a whole is engaged in [the] research process through a collective process of inquiry.” 

When it comes to adhering COVID-19 protocols, Dr. Park notes that while many staff working with the operations of the project are on campus, “[they] don’t have a physical space dedicated or assigned to our Living Lab research projects, and expect that most of the research would take place virtually.”

Though planning for the Living Lab is mostly focused on the pilot year, Dr. Park notes that they hope it will grow past its initial run to focus on larger sustainability goals.

To get involved, graduate students can apply by October 30 with their research proposal. Accepted applicants, known as Living Lab Scholars, can receive a maximum of $12,500 in funding per project. Projects will begin January 2021. 

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