On October 28th, at a lively showcase event at Vancouver City Hall, three graduate students working with City mentors through the Sustainability Scholars Program shared their key research findings with the City’s Leadership Team.
Between May and Aug 2022, City of Vancouver staff mentored 17 UBC graduate students, working on applied research projects focussed on the climate emergency, climate adaptation, climate action, and social sustainability.
Re-Imagining the Stanley Park seawall: An exploration of living shoreline alternatives
Brontë Mutukistna, a master’s student in landscape architecture presented her work, a re-imagination of the Stanley Park seawall, to explore living shoreline alternatives in response to sea level rise.
Brontë worked under the guidance of Francisca Olaya, Biologist, Environmental Planning & Sustainability at the City. Bronte’s designs for three areas of the seawall visualize a multifunctional coastal pathway that recognizes Indigenous history, naturally protects the shoreline from erosion, increases intertidal habitat, and inspires park visitors to care about the marine environment.
Members of the City Leadership Team noted that converting the hard uniform seawall into a living shoreline could help the City avoid costs incurred each year to rebuild sections damaged from storms and sea surges.
Equity impacts of energy sub-metering & low carbon building policies
Haowen Wu, a student in the Masters of Engineering Leadership program presented his project equity impacts of energy sub-metering & low carbon building policies produced for Charling Li, Green Building Engineer. Haowen’s research focussed on sub-metering practices in buildings powered by the City’s Neighbourhood Energy Utility and how the lack of transparency and inconsistent billing practices disincentivizes residents to change their energy usage.
Questions from the leadership team showed the value of his work on thermal energy sub-metering in multi-unit residential buildings to promote greater transparency in energy bills, identify affordability and equity issues, and remove barriers to energy conservation.
Grassroots Community Organizing for Community Well Being
Natacha Monestel Mora, a Ph.D. student researching human development, learning, and culture in education presented her project Grassroots Community Organizing for Community Well Being prepared for Sonia Bianchi and Lanny Libby of the Social Policy & Projects Division. Her recommendations on further participatory action research will allow the Social Policy grants team to more systematically identify and connect with grassroots organizations.
Since 2010, Sustainability Scholars have completed 228 projects for the City. The students rate their experiences very highly, and 36 Scholars have been hired by the City including the current COV Scholars Program coordinator, Sarah Labahn.
A flagship City partnership with academia
UBC and the City also value the Sustainability Scholars. At the showcase, Vancouver City Manager Paul Mochrie pointed out that the Sustainability Scholars Program was the city's flagship partnership with academia. Assistant Director of Sustainability Brad Badelt emphasised this saying that the Scholars’ research contributes new ideas, evidence, and innovative thought to inform the City’s sustainability and equity strategies.
UBC is extremely proud of this flagship program, now wrapping up its 13th year. Karen Taylor, Program Manager at the Sustainability Hub said, “…the work these students do is of amazing quality. It’s incredibly fulfilling to see the important role the Scholars Program plays in advancing the City’s sustainability and climate action goals.”
Check out the project library for more great examples of the applied research Sustainability Scholars have produced for regional organizations. You can support the program by donating here. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.