U of T student team helps local church achieve sustainability and reduce its energy footprint

During the energy audit at AHPC, Noah Cassidy (left) recorded window temperature with a thermal imaging camera while Niloufar Ghaffari (right) recorded lux readings for lighting retrofits.

With energy costs on the rise, organizations all over Canada are looking to reduce their energy consumption wherever possible — and these U of T Engineering students are helping to make that possible.

Northern Lights Solutions (NLS) is a design team within the student chapter of the Canadian/National Electrical Contractors Association (CECA/NECA U of T). The group works with client organizations to create retrofit plans, which aim to reduce the client’s overall energy consumption and promote onsite power generation.

As a part of their 2019 submission to the ELECTRI International Green Energy Challenge, NLS is working with the Armour Heights Presbyterian Church (AHPC). They have conducted an energy audit that assessed electricity usage, lighting, building enclosures, and mechanical systems at the facility. The team is developing a retrofit proposal that will improve AHPC’s building performance and will achieve a net-zero energy footprint.

In addition to the energy audit, NLS introduced an energy conservation awareness campaign for young children at the church through the Sunday School program and Mission Possible Kids Night.

“It means a lot for us to be able to connect with the tight knit community at Armour Heights,” said Dorothy Liu (CivE Year 3), President of CECA/NECA U of T. “It was rewarding to inspire the children to take care of the environment each and every day. It made us appreciate our technical work and we couldn’t have done it without the support of the incredible church community!”

During the energy audit at AHPC, Noah Cassidy (left) recorded window temperature with a thermal imaging camera while Niloufar Ghaffari (right) recorded lux readings for lighting retrofits.

NLS will submit its retrofit proposal as a part of their entry into the ELECTRI International Green Energy Challenge. If selected as a top team, NLS will travel to Las Vegas this fall to present their proposal.

This competition allows students to expand their knowledge of sustainable buildings and make meaningful contributions through volunteering.

“The Green Energy Challenge bridges theory and application by providing students with the opportunity to use their knowledge to help their community,” said Professor Brenda McCabe (CivMin), the team’s faculty advisor. “By entering this international challenge, students gain exposure to the industry and have an opportunity to create connections with current CECA/NECA members.”

“As a testament to the achievements of this student group, two of the four projects they have previously proposed have been implemented by the client organizations, who were inspired by the team’s work,” continued McCabe.

Since 2015, NLS has grown to a team of diverse students from various STEM programs, brought together by their passion for sustainable buildings, green energy, and leadership development. Currently, the team includes: Noah Cassidy (CivE Year 4) (Project Manager), Jacqueline Lu (CivE 1T8) (Finance/Audit), Yuexin Liu (Mathematics Year 1) (Building Performance), Niloufar Ghaffari (CivE Year 4) (Lighting), Fariha Oyshee (CivE Year 2) (Solar), and Lauren Streitmatter (ChemE Year 1) (Community Engagement).

“The entire NLS team would like to thank the University of Toronto Department of Civil & Mineral Engineering for providing us with the resources and support, empowering us to make an impact on organizations in our community,” said Liu.