Campus as a Living Lab

Image showing the downtown University of Toronto campus inside laboratory glassware

The Campus as a Living Lab (CLL) projects aim to bring together faculty members, students, staff, and, where appropriate, external partners to collaborate on developing sustainability projects that combine operational and academic activities. Such projects contribute to the operational sustainability goals of the University while providing an opportunity for research and experiential learning, where students are directly involved in addressing real world sustainability problems of interest to the University.  A significant priority of the Operations subcommittee is to find ways to involve students in analysing the sustainability dimensions and implications of operational policies, guidelines, and plans, and to propose improvements in line with good practices elsewhere.

CECCS is currently soliciting project proposals for Fall 2024 CLL courses ENV461 and ENV1103. Submission deadline is August 9, 2024. See below documents for further details.

CLL Goals

  • 1000 students/year on CLL projects on campus
  • Global leadership in sustainability standards
  • Signature sustainability projects

The concept of a Living Lab Project is used at several institutions. To aid in creating a common understanding among different partners in living lab projects, the CECCS has created and adopted a set of guiding principles that define what a ‘living lab’ activity is for the University, regardless of the activity’s location at the University, the type of client involved, or the student, staff, or faculty involvement. Although CECCS is not involved in all living lab projects and these principles are not exhaustive of the types of activities going on at the University, the purpose of these campus as living lab principles is to develop a path for U of T to become a leader in integrating operations and academic activity around sustainability on all three campuses. 

Four defining elements to a CLL project are identified as:

  • Integrating core learning and research mission with campus planning and operations
  • Involving responsible use of U of T infrastructure for demonstration of and research on leading-edge solutions (technical and social)
  • Engaging researchers, students, faculty, instructors, operations staff, and potentially external partners
  • Having potential for knowledge transfer within and beyond U of T

The objectives of CLL are to:

  • Create sustainable solutions that are ecologically and socially sustainable, financially viable, and supportable in the long term by campus operations and the campus community
  • Develop research, innovation, and collaboration opportunities – develop new technologies, techniques and solutions in partnership with others through internal or external collaborations
  • Look for integrated solutions – employ a campus-wide perspective, focusing on connections between physical systems (energy, water, material, food) and the well-being of our community
  • Provide learning & engagement opportunities for students, staff and faculty – involve campus community members from a broad range of disciplines & backgrounds in the innovation process
  • Advance knowledge of possible solutions for a sustainable future – learn from all projects regardless of the outcomes
  • Be inclusive and contributory – create mutual & lasting benefit with a broad range of U of T community members and possible external partners

The factors that would make for a successful living lab are:

  • High student participation
  • Access to resources, as required
  • Strong research, teaching & learning outcomes
  • Open communication
  • Identified operational needs
  • Effective project management
  • Committed & motivated partners

Living Lab Projects and Student Engagement

Student involvement is essential to any living lab project. Students in such projects receive a variety of benefits, including:

  • Improved technical and group project skills
  • Application of knowledge and education to real-life situations applications
  • Networking opportunities with academic, operations, and other U of T community members
  • Connections to prospective industry professionals
  • Potential engagement with interested external partners

Operations Projects with External Partners

Universities can work with external partners to develop living lab projects that create research on new technologies and ideas on campus. These Operations projects with external partners must be consistent with the elements and objectives of Operations projects mentioned above and adhere to the following principles: 

  • Be time-limited projects
  • Look for innovative, technological solutions
  • Have a research dimension
  • Provide funding for students per the University’s guidelines on full cost recovery in research
  • Agree to rights to publish and the university’s standard Intellectual Property (IP) rights

Living lab projects with external partners may also extend work “beyond the campus” and into the industry. External partners are encouraged to approach possible partners at the university with opportunities for both research and operations. 

Where applicable, the Operations subcommittee will support the inclusion of both academic and operations in these projects and suggest the inclusion of potential stakeholders.

Campus as a Living Lab Courses

Learn more about the different CLL courses currently being offered across the University of Toronto at our Campus as a Living Lab Course Inventory.

Campus as a Living Lab Projects

There have been many campus as a living lab projects at the University of Toronto over the years. The following are a few examples of recent projects that have given their permission to share publicly. Click on the project title to download the full report. You can view more Campus as a Living Lab Projects here.

The Possibilities of Building with Mass Timber: The Case of the University of Toronto Academic Wood Tower
Sarah Li, Jennifer Wan, Fabio Lei, James Shi
Client: Landmark Geoexchange Project Energy Management, Facilities & Services, UTSG
Fall 2020
A comparative analysis of sustainable irrigation methods for the UTSC Campus Farm
Siham Karamali, Shiyin Cao, Shicong Huang, and Evans Lai
Client: UTSC Campus Farm
Winter 2021
Piloting Sustainable Procurement at the University of Toronto
Rachel Sutton
Client: UTSG Procurement Services
Winter 2021
Increasing Pollinator Habitats at the UTSC Campus
Lindsay Gregory, Emily Kalbun, Kajol Patel, Julia Rojas Contento
Client: Department of Business Development and Sustainability Office Facilities Management, UTSC
Winter 2021
Planning for a Healthier Campus: Recommendations on the feasibility of adopting the WELL v2 Building Standards
Syeda Hasan, Shimeihui Fan, Robinder Jangi, Liuqing Xiang
Client: Campus and Facilities Planning Campus and Facilities Planning, Tri-Campus (UTM – UTSG – UTSC)
Fall 2020
Facilitating Community Engagement for The University of Toronto’s Landmark Geoexchange Project
Sabrina Poinen, Tanvi Khurmi, Hayley Vlcek and Marko Berrak-Tinaz
Client: Landmark Geoexchange Project Energy Management, Facilities & Services, UTSG
Fall 2020
Repair Café
Christina Ogilvie, Truman Dauck, Zhixuan Liu, Soham Raikar, Chieh Wang
Client: Sustainability Office, UTM
Winter 2022
Electronic Throttle Control (ETC) for FSAE Vehicle
Arham Danish, Kihyun Cho, Rafid Khan, Sameer Khan
Client: Formula SAE Racing Team, UTSG
Fall 2018 – Winter 2019
Empowering Students Through Sustainable Off-grid PV Power
Parham Chinikar, Marawan Gamal, Liam Keller, Katherine Pryszlak
Client: Sustainability Office, UTSG
Fall 2018 – Winter 2019
Salamander Conservation
Angelica Ramoutar, Farid Salah, Giovanna Rose-Grande, Julia Ferraro, Verda Tariq, Xianjin Zheng
Client: Sustainability Office, UTM
Winter 2022