The Town of Bridgewater has made a name for itself as a community that is going above and beyond to tackle climate change and affordable housing challenges. Continuously thinking outside of the box, Bridgewater’s investments in green business ideas and research have attracted entrepreneurs and innovators with similar ambitions to work in this thriving Nova Scotian town.
Energize Bridgewater aims to reduce energy poverty and address the climate crisis in a way that includes the most vulnerable residents of the community. This visionary work presented an ideal opportunity to collaborate with the Nova Scotia Community College’s (NSCC) Applied Energy Research Lab. Led by Dr. Wayne Groszko, the AERLab works with industry and communities to solve energy challenges.
“Our lab has extensive experience in energy monitoring and communicating data-driven findings related to energy use,” said Dr. Groszko. “We decided to work together to develop a proof-of-concept for a residential energy management information system. This project draws on my team’s skills and aligns with the Town’s goals.”
Jessica McDonald, the Town of Bridgewater’s Energize Bridgewater Project Director, explains how an energy management information system is an important piece of supporting infrastructure and will help them meet their ambitious goals:
The sophisticated system measures data such as household energy consumption, heating performance, air quality and many other vital pieces of information. What makes this project unique is that this complex system that is usually only available for larger commercial buildings will be deployed community-wide at the household level. Even more interesting is that these systems will first be offered to households in situations where it is difficult for them to pay their energy bills.
“Nova Scotia has one of the highest rates of energy poverty in the country,” said Bridgewater’s mayor, David Mitchell. “The Town of Bridgewater envisions a future for our community where energy poverty reduction strategies work together with clean and efficient energy systems to confront energy poverty at its core.”
Dr. Groszko and his team are currently testing the proof-of-concept for the energy management information system in their lab at Ivany Campus in Dartmouth. They hope to participate in field trials with beta-test users in the coming months.
“We are preparing the scope of work for the field-testing stage and for the design of a follow-up support system,” said Groszko. “This next step speaks to the relationship between the energy management information system and the residents who will be invited to make use of it. It will address questions on how to make the information understandable and actionable, how residents will know if their energy situation is improving and who to call if they have a question. We are part of the team that will be looking at these human factors.”
NSCC is excited to be working with the Town of Bridgewater on this forward-thinking project. Once it is operating, this project could be used in communities across Canada to provide residents with information on their energy usage and show them ways to save money and reduce their carbon footprint.
Image: Aerial imagery of the Northumberland Shore coastline. The left image was taken before Hurricane Fiona, the right after.
Coastal flooding and erosion in Atlantic Canada have always been a concern but never more so than now as climate change is impacting the region more frequently and intensely than ever before.
Nova Scotia Community College’s (NSCC) dedicated team of coastal mapping researchers have developed an online tool to help Atlantic Canadians prepare for coastal flooding from storms. Combining years of mapping data from past projects with high-resolution elevation data collected from an aircraft using lidar technology, NSCC’s Applied Geomatics Research Group (AGRG) constructed an online flood risk mapping system.
AGRG has been conducting flood studies for coastal communities for many years now. They have been sharing their data with municipalities, provincial governments, Environment and Climate Change Canada and the Emergency Management Office of Nova Scotia to help them project what past benchmark storms would look like in the future with increased sea-level rise.
There are many factors to consider when predicting flooding, such as predicted tide, storm surge and total water levels. In the past, understanding and layering the different flood factors could be confusing since the marine and land components use different vertical references, AGRG wanted to simplify the process for users. They applied for and received funding from the Emergency Preparedness Program to build a web-based system that would link all the data in one space, known as their Emergency Coastal Flooding Decision Support System.
The online tool links predicted tide and storm surge, up to 10 days in advance, interactively with the flood map. When the user clicks on the water level chart, the flood inundation map is automatically updated. Users can increase the water level using a vertical slider bar to incorporate the potential effects of waves and long-term sea-level rise. There’s also an option to overlay the flood layer with critical infrastructure like roads, locations of fire, police and ambulance service, and continuing care facilities to determine if they are at risk of flooding.
Dr. Tim Webster explains what drove him and his team to pursue this project:
“The goal of this project was to allow easy access to lidar maps and the coastal flood layers. It provides valuable information for surge predictions from storms and hurricanes as well as for people wanting to do long-term planning that need to consider sea-level rise in the next 50 to 100 years. For example, many planners use the tool when looking at infrastructure that could be vulnerable or planning new infrastructure that is expected to have a lifespan of over 50 years.
One of the biggest impacts for Atlantic Canada from climate change will be increased sea-level rise. This tool allows people to raise the sea-level and see what will get flooded.”
AGRG’s flood risk support system was in high demand leading up to and following Hurricane Fiona which made landfall on Sept 24, 2022. Dr. Webster noted, “The site was accessed by lots of people prior to Fiona making landfall and it did not crash which was a test of its design and implementation using ESRI GIS tools.”
More impressive still, was that the predictive models were quite accurate. While their system showed the same variation in the total water level along the Northumberland Shore and were consistent with the Environment and Climate Change Canada storm surge predictions, Dr. Webster and team were still impressed by the power of the storm which resulted in a significant amount of damage to coastal features.
Thank you to Environment and Climate Change Canada for supplying the storm surge predictions, Department of Fisheries and Oceans for supplying the predicted tide and all three Maritime Provinces who have supported the project and provided data on the location of their emergency services. A special shout out to the Province of Nova Scotia’s GeoNova, who is currently testing the system on one of their web servers. They plan to eventually host the site as a secondary location to support their mandate of access to geographic information that helps people make better decisions. This project was funded by Defense Research and Development Canada.
“These batteries come in all different sizes, but the one we’re looking at is primarily for a residential home and it’s meant to replace a hot water tank,” says Willson, Principal Investigator, Smart Building Management with SAIT’s Applied Research and Innovation Services (ARIS).
Unlike a hot water tank, the battery contains a more energy-dense material. This phase-change material allows increased excess heat to be captured in the appliance with a much smaller form factor. Hot water is not stored in the battery — instead, energy is transferred to cold water, through a phase change in the material. It releases the stored thermal energy to heat the water, operating essentially as hot water on demand.
The team testing this application have all studied at SAIT.
Willson is a graduate of the SAIT Information Technology program, and Julio Jacome de Paz, Project Coordinator, graduated from the Mechanical Engineering Technology program. Maeric Rico, the student working on software to analyze the data from the flow and temperature sensors, studied Computer Science and graduated from the Civil Engineering Technology program.
ARIS has partnered with Home Completions on the project. Additionally, as part of bringing energy solutions to the province, this project received funding from Alberta Innovates through the Campus Alberta Small Business Engagement program and Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council funding through the Applied Research and Development for Colleges program. The mCHP was donated from ATCO as part of a previous research project and continues to be used in cold weather climate research today.
“Through this project, we’re aiming to get data by testing this unique systems integration. The results may also be useful in applications such as powering off-grid buildings, better use of solar photovoltaic energy, more effective use of mechanical systems or in commercial electric vehicles to maintain a consistent heat, even in winter,” says Willson.
The team is evaluating the performance of the mCHP and the thermal battery as one system to determine the most efficient way to store the thermal energy released during the power generation process, and to be used later as hot water on demand, primarily in residential homes. The key to a more sustainable energy system is the commercially available thermal battery.
The second potential outcome is improved reliability of the mCHP when operated as part of this system.
“One of the downfalls from our past research of mCHPs is, when you’re running the generator to produce power for your building, it also has to produce heat and that heat has to go somewhere,” says Willson.
When the mCHP overheats, it turns off, regardless of whether you still need electricity. The integration of the thermal battery will provide another larger outlet for the excess heat.
“You can use wasted heat for other things, in this case the hot water tank and the thermal battery in a home or building, but the applications are anywhere that you would want to generate power on site,” says Willson.
Combining heat and power for efficiencies is an old idea, but as more energy dense material is developed, new applications are tested and power demand is better understood, there’s more opportunity to increase the efficiency of our energy use and its sustainability. This is the type of innovation and applied research ARIS continues to investigate as part of its commitment to building integrated renewable energy. Read more about ARIS’ recent projects and learn more about how we work with industry partners to find applied research solutions as one of Canada’s top applied research colleges.
Rising yearly temperatures, regular occurrences of wildfires and progressively warmer waters are just some of the many reasons we all must do our part in the fight for a healthier, happier planet.
Algonquin College has joined millions of organizations globally in embracing sustainability as a strategy that drives better business performance, innovation, new employment opportunities, greater social equity and a healthier planet.
In 2013, Algonquin College launched a Sustainability Strategy Framework guided by the S-E-E model which would incorporate the three pillars of sustainability, social, economic and environmental. The framework shaped many of the College’s practices and decisions related to College affairs and curriculum over the years, including LEED certification for new buildings, introduction of environmentally focused programs and effective implementation of energy saving measures.
Now, almost ten years later, this framework continues to guide Algonquin College’s earth friendly efforts. But the prevailing realities of climate change only grow harsher with each passing year, signaling the need for a renewed commitment to sustainability, climate action and environmentalism.
While it’s common to think of sustainability as a matter of environmental initiatives, meeting present and future human needs involves a much larger spectrum of considerations. Algonquin College’s approach to sustainability equally weighs economic and social considerations against environmental ones.
Algonquin College offers a wide range of programs that teach skills essential to navigating and mitigating new challenges brought on by climate change. From firefighters to green architects, the College prepares learners for their stewardship in what will be a critical path forward. Not only will firefighters need to adapt to an increase in extreme weather incidents, but so will nurses, respiratory therapists, wastewater technicians, and many others.
Algonquin College’s Pre-service Firefighter and Education Training Program offers learners a hands-on opportunity to acquire crucial firefighter competencies and skills. Shaping graduates into capable and dynamic individuals prepared to confidently manage and mitigate the unfortunate fallout of extreme weather.
Algonquin College’s renewed commitment to sustainability focuses on providing a post-secondary education that shapes learners into global citizens capable of creating a better future for all.
Three postsecondary institutions are working with industry partners to address the skills shortage in Ontario’s screen-based industries.
Centennial College, Fanshawe and Seneca have collaborated to develop a suite of eight microcredentials designed to help industry professionals upskill and current students who are content creators learn additional in-demand production and technology skills.
With film and television production at record levels in Ontario, employers are reporting difficulty finding enough qualified workers with up-to-date skills in industry-standard technologies.
“This suite of microcredentials gives students a real advantage in developing the skills that will lead them to employment in Ontario’s screen-based industries,” said Kurt Muller, Dean, Faculty of Communications, Art and Design, Seneca. “We’re working with industry leaders to offer training on the platforms and technologies that are being used in film and television right now, meaning graduates of these courses will emerge ready to immediately join the workforce.”
Credentials offered through this first-of-its-kind partnership include Grip/Lighting and Television and Film Production Accounting Basic Skills from Centennial College; Location Sound, Previsualization and Virtual Production – Unreal from Fanshawe; and Virtual Production – Unity and two microcredentials in Avid skills from Seneca.
Courses will be taught by respected industry professionals and offered online, in person and through hybrid delivery, helping students balance work priorities and learn from wherever they are in Ontario.
“Stratagem is delighted to support this project and is encouraged to see these dynamic colleges working in collaboration to help address this acute labour shortage across Ontario,” said Jeff Melanson, Partner, The Strategem Group.
Also partnering on the project is POV, which will help members of equity-deserving groups access the microcredentials and diversify representation in Ontario’s screen-based industries.
Both our indoor and outdoor spaces affect the learning blueprint and our environmental footprint. We commit to improving our learning spaces while reducing our impact. ~ Shaping Futures, Holland College’s strategic plan.
Holland College has more than 900,000 square feet in structures ranging in age from over 90 to just a few of years old in nine campuses and centres across Prince Edward Island. The challenge of maintaining all the buildings was staggering, and deferred maintenance was beginning to take its toll.
A decade ago, the college undertook two ambitious projects: the construction of the Centre for Applied Sciences and Technology (CAST) and the establishment of the Summerside Waterfront Campus. Each project was unique. CAST is a world-recognized Green Globes building, one of only a few in North America. The Summerside Waterfront Campus was a massive renovation project that transformed an aging shopping mall into a building which houses most of the college’s Industrial Trades and Technology programs, the Adult Education programs for that region of the province, and full-time programs in computer studies and health.
Since the completion of those projects, and with motivation from the goals outlined in a new strategic plan, Holland College has embarked on approximately $15 million in renovations and improvements.
With a focus on each of the buildings’ mechanical systems, building envelope, roof replacement, interior finishes, and electrical systems, the college has:
This year, the college will undergo a carbon audit, which will help shape future sustainability projects in Holland College locations across Prince Edward Island.
Support from RBC creates a new pathway to a career in IT for Indigenous students while expanding mentorship and hands-on learning for students in business and IT programs at RRC Polytech
Winnipeg, Manitoba on Treaty No. 1 Territory and the Homeland of the Métis Nation – Today, Indigenous leaners interested in pursuing a career in Manitoba’s IT sector will have access to a new Information Technology program offered at RRC Polytech as the result thanks to a $450,000 gift from RBC. This most recent gift alongside funding for other programs and platforms that connect diverse students to their ideas, potential, and one another, make for a million-dollar friendship.
“When community partners like RBC connect with RRC Polytech to create globally needed program, we’re ready to answer the call,” said Fred Meier, President and CEO, RRC Polytech. “This new pathway program is designed to equip Indigenous Manitobans with the skills and support required to transition into selected programs at RRC Polytech. With the move to remote and hybrid work and heavy reliance on technology, the world of IT Operations is growing everyday and RRC Polytech’s students are in high demand.”
RBC has been a longstanding partner of RRC Polytech and today both organizations are celebrating over $1M in support. These gifts have provided mentorship and internship opportunities for students through Ten Thousand Coffees and Riipen, sponsored the Directions Conference as well as the Reaction by Collision series, where today’s announcement is being made and today will launch the Pathway to Information Technology programs.
Pathways are exploratory and preparatory programs that provide Indigenous Manitobans with the skills and supports required to transition into selected RRC programs by increasing their academic, personal, social and financial readiness.
This is the fourth Pathway program added to RRC Polytech, showcasing the success of this model and the demand for these types of programs that increase opportunities for Indigenous students in various sectors. Pathway to Information Technology will prepare and empower students to participate in IT Operations, Information Security and Business Information Technology.
When students have selected a career path and are ready to transition into a RRC program, Pathways offer the added benefit of dedicated seats for Indigenous students, in an effort to remove the barrier of long program wait lists.
Saskatchewan Polytechnic (Sask Polytech) engages in applied research, drawing on faculty expertise to support innovation by employers and providing students the opportunity to develop critical thinking skills. The institution’s new Sustainability-Led Integrated Centre of Excellence (SLICE) is an industry-centric, solution-oriented development and deployment centre that’s bringing sustainable development to Saskatchewan and Canada through local technology solutions with global application potential.
“SLICE is a new Sask Polytech applied research centre advancing sustainable resource management with a full life-cycle lens approach,” says Dr. Robin Smith, Academic Chair of Applied Research Operations at SLICE. “Our focus is on key sectors of Saskatchewan’s economy including energy resources, manufacturing, agriculture, and forestry. SLICE is really about delivering solutions to applied research partners in support of a circular, bio-based economy.”
The circular economy prioritizes reusing, recycling, and upcycling of materials and resources to minimize waste and promote sustainability, and two of SLICE’s recent projects highlight innovations in the field.
The ecological soil reclamation project was undertaken after Sask Polytech was approached by Andrew Carpenter, a freelance Environmental Consultant and President of Reclaimit, a company focused on forest and land restoration.
“I was doing a soil reclamation project up in Northern Saskatchewan and it failed,” says Carpenter. “I realized that I’m not a researcher — I’m a practitioner. I needed some horsepower from the research end.”
Carpenter went looking for support and came upon Sask Polytech. Together, they’ve been exploring how to restore soil using biochar, a charcoal produced by the thermal decomposition of biomass.
“Biochar is made from repurposed waste, so we’re taking a waste product that would end up in a landfill and repurposing it into solid carbon, which is now considered sequestered carbon, so we’re using sequestered carbon to help repair the soil,” says Carpenter. “It’s really cool.”
One of the benefits of partnering with SLICE is that it’s a single-entry point to multiple areas of expertise at Sask Polytech. Sustainability issues are complex and we recognize that through our collaborative approach.
Another exciting project being undertaken by SLICE is the Waste Not, Want Not project, which aims to develop a biocarbon masterbatch, a solid additive used to impart colour and other properties to plastics, that could replace traditional petroleum-based carbon black. This project is with Titan Clean Energy Projects.
“We’re working with Sask Polytech and looking at how we can use materials that might be considered waste from another segment of the economy to improve processes and cycle back into the system,” says Jamie Bakos, President and CEO of Titan. “In this case, we’re looking at developing a product that could assist in making compostable bioplastics. We have the potential to export this material worldwide.”
SLICE’s collaborative, integrated, transdisciplinary approach is focused on understanding the relationships required to address complex issues related to sustainability. “Our partners have access to exceptional facilities, faculty expertise, and an amazing pool of student talent,” says Smith. “One of the benefits of partnering with SLICE is that it’s a single-entry point to multiple areas of expertise at Sask Polytech. Sustainability issues are complex and we recognize that through our collaborative approach.”
The first step to learning what Sask Polytech and its applied research team of expert faculty can do for your business is reach out. “All it takes is a phone call or an email to get started,” says Dr. Susan Blum, associate Vice-President, Applied Research and Innovation. “We’ll work with you — whether you’re just starting out or in a large organization — to determine what you need to accomplish and how we can help you get there.”
RRC Polytech’s Vehicle Technology & Energy Centre (VTEC) will continue to lead the charge on the shift to zero-emission vehicles (ZEV), thanks to support from Natural Resources Canada (NRCan).
The federal government, through NRCan recently announced a $225,000 grant for Enhancing Workplace Charging across Canada’s Prairie Region through Emphasizing Strategies for Cost-Effective Adaptation of Charging Infrastructure (Enhancing Workplace Charging), an initiative RRC Polytech will lead alongside partners Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) and Saskatchewan Polytechnic (Sask Polytech). This grant was provided along with funding for 22 organizations across Canada to undertake ZEV awareness projects.
Through this partnership, the College is extending its reach from Manitoba to throughout the Prairies to build public awareness of charging options for electric vehicles (EVs).
The overall aim of the collaborative initiative is to address one of the most significant barriers to EV adoption, “range anxiety” due to lack of access to charging infrastructure. RRC Polytech and project partners have identified that the Prairie region presents a major opportunity to implement charging stations to meet workplace charging needs. Throughout Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta, there are numerous existing plug-in-points (nearly 500,000 in Manitoba alone) due to the cold climate, which can be adapted in a cost-effective manner for Level 1 charging.
To support EV adoption, RRC Polytech’s VTEC team, NAIT and Sask Polytech will leverage collective expertise to research and distribute informational material to build awareness of charging options and how to adapt current infrastructure for Level 1 workplace charging.
RRC Polytech is a founding member of Accelerate and member of Canadian Colleges for a Resilient Recovery (C2R2), and the Enhancing Workplace Charging project goals directly align with the mandates of these alliances to support a greener future, highlighting the College’s commitment to sustainability.
In addition, the project will help build a future workforce trained for clean-tech jobs, through student participation in applied learning. RRC Polytech researchers, technicians, and students will also help build the College’s capabilities for new zero-emission technology initiatives.
RRC Polytech remains on the leading-edge of the drive to zero-emission vehicles, growing the province as a hub for EV innovation and adoption. To learn more about the College’s past vehicle technology projects, visit rrc.ca/vtec
As leaders, the Canadian Colleges for a Resilient Recovery (C2R2) coalition is actively engaged with the federal government to demonstrate how we can quickly respond to complex training and applied research challenges from coast to coast to coast. C2R2 is a coalition of highly aligned institutions from across Canada with an established commitment to sustainability, that have come together as a driving force, providing the skills required to transition to a clean economy in Canada. Our institutions are positioned to develop thousands of training and applied research opportunities to help Canadians access new careers, support the transition to a low-carbon economy, and foster inclusion, diversity, and equity.
We will ensure we are at the forefront of the transition by:
In its November 2021 Speech from the Throne, the federal government said, “As a country, we want to be leaders in producing the world’s cleanest steel, aluminum, building products, cars, and planes. Not only do we have the raw materials and energy to do that, most importantly, we have skilled, hard-working Canadians to power these industries.”
Canada must become a leader in producing these clean materials if Canada is to meet its net-zero targets and build a more resilient, sustainable, and competitive economy. However, the federal government cannot meet these commitments alone. It requires the collaboration of provinces, communities, industry, and educational institutions to ensure we have the trained workers required to fill jobs in an emerging economy brought on by the opportunities a net-zero future provides.
Across Canada, the opportunities found in a resilient, sustainable and competitive economy are becoming apparent. From building Canada’s capacity to develop our critical mineral infrastructure, to ensuring Canada is at the forefront of emerging sectors like electric vehicles, artificial intelligence and carbon capture – Canada’s colleges, cégeps, institutions and polytechnics are ensuring workers can be trained to take full advantage of the opportunities these new sectors offer.
On February 10, 14 and 15, C2R2 members will be meeting with federal parliamentarians to ensure they understand that Canada’s colleges, cégeps, institutions, and polytechnics play a critical role in preparing workers for a changing economy. C2R2 committed to working with the government and parliamentarians of all political stripes to ensure we prepare our workforce for the employment opportunities that are emerging in every region of our country, and that we fully benefit from the transition to a low-carbon economy.
We are seeking the support of parliamentarians to support C2R2’s efforts in ensuring we recognize the opportunity C2R2 provides to prepare our workforce, and that it receives the support required for success.
The goals the federal government have set are ambitious, but we have to be ambitious to succeed and ensure a strong, resilient economic recovery for Canada. Canadian colleges have always risen to the challenge of ensuring that Canadian workers are trained for the jobs of tomorrow. We stand ready to get that job done once again.
Interested in meeting with C2R2 to learn more and how you can support the coalition? Contact Paul Armstrong, C2R2 Steering Group Co-Chair at [email protected] to arrange a meeting.
Ron J. McKerlie is Chair of Canadian Colleges for a Resilient Recovery and President of Mohawk College in Hamilton, Ontario.