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Engineering and building science students create environmental change for a sustainable future

Research and projects address urgent environmental issues
June 03, 2021

According to NASA, external link, 2016 and 2020 have been the hottest years on record since the industrial revolution. Rising temperatures threaten the earth’s ecosystems, human lives and economies. Therefore, celebrating environmental action and change can help to encourage governments, businesses and citizens to focus on urgent environmental issues. We profiled three Faculty of Engineering and Architectural Science (FEAS) students and alumna to discuss their work in creating a sustainable future and greener planet.

Portrait of Farokh Laqa Kakar smiling
Farokh Laqa Kakar, Civil Engineering, MASc ’19, PhD ’23

With the water and energy crisis in low- and high-income countries and the growing concerns around climate change, Farokh Laqa Kakar was inspired to focus her studies on environmental research to help solve these global challenges. 

The PhD candidate’s research looks at anaerobic digestion technology that can treat organic waste and produce energy. By removing pathogens from waste, reducing waste volume and creating renewable energy, this research can help Canada achieve its COP21 goals, external link.

As the President of the Canadian Young Water Professionals with the International Water Association (IWA) and the 2020 NSERC Vanier CGS Scholarship recipient, Kakar said she is grateful to the civil engineering department who “supported, encouraged and celebrated” her extracurricular activities. 

“During my time at FEAS, I learned the art of communication, experienced emotional intelligence in its practical form, developed a great understanding of academic systems in a university, and gained a general understanding of other disciplines in engineering that can help me toward professional collaborations,” said Kakar.

For a sustainable future, Kakar encourages each individual to take responsibility for their own contributions. “Each individual’s goal should be about changing their lifestyle to leave a cleaner earth for the next generations,” said Kakar. “To save the earth, to save life on the earth and to save yourself, live greener.”

Portrait of Farabi Bashar smiling in front of a brick wall
Farabi Bashar, Building Science, MBSc ’21

Growing up in Bangladesh, Farabi Bashar, a master of building science student, said the building infrastructure of her country inspired her to further her study on sustainable development.

As a Ryerson team member for the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon competition, Bashar collaborated in designing an office building that can achieve a net-zero energy building status. By reducing carbon emissions and determining ways to use renewable energy, Bashar said the team is striving to design a building that can withstand the test of time. “As long as it’s on this earth, it’s not going to affect the planet negatively,” said Bashar.

Studying under Department Chair and professor Mark Gorgolewski, Bashar said she was inspired to study building science and work on green buildings after being introduced to the circular economy during her BL8102 class. “It was the first time I was learning about circular economies and I wanted to explore it further in my major research paper,” said Bashar.

She believes buildings need to be designed sustainably for a greener future. “At the end of a buildings’ lifetime, its material fills up landfills. This cycle continues, and waste continues to build up, ” said Bashar. Therefore, Bashar explains that using renewable energies to create buildings rather than focusing on a “profit-powered market” would lead to a sustainable, circular economy and leave minimal impact on its site and environment. 

Portrait of Simran Munde smiling in front of a fence
Simran Munde, Building Science, MBSc ’21

Master of building science student Simran Munde describes sustainability as a major factor in designing an efficient building, given the current global climate emergency. Munde decided during her undergraduate studies at FEAS to specialize in building science after learning about the detrimental impacts architectural design can have on the environment.

A member of Ryerson’s Solar Decathlon team, Munde, said the competition pushed her and her team to design beyond the conventional building to create an effective, efficient and sustainable building. Using her experience from studio courses, Munde said this helped her “explore, develop and implement sustainable ideas into her work.”

“The wide variety of courses that I took in my undergraduate and graduate program were all factors in helping me design a sustainably built environment,” said Munde. 

When thinking about architectural goals for the future, Munde believes that governing bodies should continue implementing environmental regulations to guide not only architects, but building scientists and key stakeholders too. 

“At the end of the day, you are designing for the user. So sustainable buildings that meet net-zero energy and carbon, while keeping the people’s health and well-being in mind, is how I think buildings are going to be sustainable in the future as they take a more holistic approach,” said Munde.