Perspectives Newsletter Summer 2022
Vol. 46, no.2 / Posted on September 16, 2022

The Department of Biosystems Engineering has established a Sustainability-in-Action Facility (SiAF) on the west side of the Fort Garry campus that will be available to the University of Manitoba community for experiential learning and demonstration opportunities in the areas of sustainability (including northern/urban food production, renewable energy, building practices, and utilization of waste biomass fibre).


Four goals have been established to guide the development of the SiAF site: 1) To enhance sustainability content in undergraduate and graduate courses through access to experiential learning activities, 2) To enable the University of Manitoba to engage in public education and outreach in the areas of sustainability, 3) To initiate short-term demonstration projects with industry to showcase emerging sustainability technologies, and 4) To support innovative research activities in the areas of sustainability.

In 2021, the Department of Biosystems Engineering partnered with the Faculty of Architecture to sponsor a “site plan design competition” for landscape architecture students with the purpose of generating innovative ideas for development of the site. Students were invited to propose a site layout that would be used to demonstrate environmental sustainability (through vegetation and/or other materials) and social sustainability (such as Indigenous culture for example). The existing renewable energy technologies were to be featured as “places of interest” within the site. The site was to function as an outdoor classroom or learning environment dedicated completely to sustainability. We received several exceptional entries from landscape architecture students that have provided inspiration for the next stage of development of the SiAF site. One of the designs that was selected as a prize recipient developed their concept for the site (i.e., Snaring the Sun-Stainability) around the story of Sa-Klu-Nazetti of the Dene peoples. The pathway leading around the site would expose SiAF visitors to the various modern ways that are used to “snare” solar energy to support human activities. We have decided to embrace this theme and intend to prominently feature solar technologies as we complete the landscaping of the site. The site currently includes the following renewable energy systems that are based on solar energy: solar wall, solar air panels, solar glycol panels, solar tubes, and a photovoltaic system.

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In addition to renewable solar energy technologies, the SiAF site features a vertical-axis wind turbine, a greenhouse constructed with a heat storage wall designed to store solar energy during the day and release it back into the greenhouse during night, a biomass boiler to provide supplemental heat during cold weather, and steel shipping containers that are being used as vegetable production chambers for remote communities.

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Windows in the Strawbale Building are being replaced with innovative window technology to demonstrate energy efficiency in building construction. Plans are underway to supplement existing technologies with a rainwater harvesting system to provide irrigation water to the greenhouse using subsurface irrigation technology and an in-vessel composting system to provide composting of campus-generated organic waste. Funds have been requested to purchase a fully electric utility tractor to demonstrate the use of zero-emission machines on campus. Development of the site is on-going.

The Sustainability-in-Action Facility is currently being managed by Dr. Joe Ackerman, SiAF Research Associate & Manager. Joe can be reached by phone (204-261-0930) or by email (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.). If you happen to be in Winnipeg, Joe would be happy to provide you with a tour of this site. We welcome the opportunity to partner with industry to showcase innovative sustainability technologies, and we welcome the opportunity for research collaboration.

Although we do not currently feature any technologies for plastic recycling, this is an area of interest for Dr. Ackerman that aligns with SiAF. In the spring of 2022, Dr. Ackerman visited several European countries to gain first-hand knowledge of technologies being used to recycle plastic (and other materials). Joe has written four short pieces describing what he saw and learned on his European tour; these have been included to inspire us to do more with the waste that we produce in Canada.