U of T's Green Roof Innovation Testing Laboratory launches new website

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Monday, May 6, 2013 - 4:00pm

In 2010, the University of Toronto’s John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design created a state-of-the-art green roof research facility on top of its building at 230 College Street. Now, the interdisciplinary research team behind the Green Roof Innovation Testing Laboratory, or GRIT Lab, has launched a new website — grit.daniels.utoronto.ca — which will allow it to share the results of its work with a much broader community.

The GRIT Lab focuses on testing the effectiveness of various green roof, green wall, and solar photovoltaic (PV) (solar panel) technologies in the context of the Toronto climate.  Led by Assistant Professor Liat Margolis, the Lab is a platform for multi-disciplinary research and education, linking the fields of landscape architecture, biology, hydrology, and building science. Industry partners, government agencies, and other academic institutions are also involved. This ongoing collaborative project responds to the need for cities to better address issues such as urban heat island effect, storm water management, and biodiversity — and promises far-reaching results for education, for public policy and guidelines, and for innovation within the industry.

From 2010 to 2012, 33 green roof test beds (4ft x 8ft) were constructed on the Daniels Facutly’s rooftop to evaluate the construction standards associated with green roof systems, including the growing media, vegetation, and irrigation techniques. The lab is equipped with 270 sensors and a weather station that record temperature, soil moisture, water flow, evapotranspiration, and climate data in real time. This summer, GRIT Lab will be constructing an integrated solar PV and green roof facility on the Daniels Faculty rooftop to study whether green roof systems can improve the energy performance and lifetime of PV arrays (a linked collection of solar panels) by combining evapotranspirative cooling with solar reflectance.

Beautiful and exhaustive, the GRIT Lab’s new website provides visitors with background on the different facets of its research, the partners involved, and the data being collected. Under the Data section, visitors can find a live web feed of the roof, as well as 90 downloadable drawings, renderings, and animations of the lab’s material components, plant species, and sensor equipment. Results and reports will be shared on the website as the research progresses. The website is intended to be an open source platform, enabling data sharing among academic institutions, industry, government agencies, and the general public.

The research team includes Daniels Faculty professors Robert Wright, Ted Kesik, and John Danahy, U of T Civil Engineering professors Brent Sleep and Jennifer Drake, Carleton University professor Liam O’Brien, PhD candidates Scott MacIvor (Biology, York University) and Jenny Hill (Civil Eng., U of T), and Daniels Faculty MLA students Benjamin Matthews, Curtis Puncher, Karen May, Jameson Skaife, Matthew Perotto, and Catherine Yoon.

The research undertaken by the GRIT Lab was made possible through grants from the City of Toronto Environment Office, Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE), RCI Foundation, MITACS, the Connaught Fund, and the Landscape Architecture Canada Foundation (LACF), as well as the generous support of the University of Toronto and industry partners Bioroof, Carl-Stahl-Decorcable, DH Water Management, Flynn, Greenscreen, Hunstman, IRC Building Sciences Group, Scott Torrance Landscape Architect Inc., Schletter, Siplast, Semple Gooder, Sky Solar, Toro, and Tremco Roofing.