Recent News

U of T student success at U.S.-based ECIC competition: Third place overall

October 19, 2021

Four CivMin students in interdisciplinary final presentation team

The CECA U of T presentation team (left to right): Yiyang Hu (Year 3 CivE), Sarah De Sousa (Year 4 CivE), Joanna Melnyk (Year 4 EngSci), Zhiyuan Zhu (Year 4 Architecture), Ruth Zachariah (Year 4 CivE) and Lina Mollazadeh (Year 3 CivE). (Photo by Ruth Zachariah)

Students, representing the Canadian Electrical Contractors Association (CECA) U of T Chapter, were recognized for their success at the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) Electrical Contracting Innovation Challenge (ECIC) held Saturday, October 9.

The team won the Most Innovative proposal and placed third overall in the competition, behind Iowa State and Wayne State University.

CECA U of T is the first and only Canadian student chapter, with a team consisting of some 30 members comprised of a range of Engineering and Architecture students, who worked on the four-month design proposal from January to April 2021. CECA U of T was selected in July 2021 as one of the top three finalists. The finals were held on October 9, 2021, where six U of T Team Leads/ Members from every sub-team delivered an oral presentation virtually to the in-person event in Nashville, Tennessee. The presenters included Joanna Melnyk (Year 4 EngSci – Building Energy Management Team Lead), Ruth Zachariah (Year 4 CivE – Smart Building Design Team Lead), Sarah De Sousa (Year 4 CivE – Community Engagement Coordinator), Aaron Hu (Year 3 CivE – Team Member for Lighting sub-team), Lina Mollazadeh (Year 3 CivE – Project Management Team Lead) and Zhiyuan (Scott) Zhu (Year 4 Architecture – Building Information Team Lead). The team took direction from their faculty advisor Ian Sinclair, a CivMin sessional instructor. “We did our best, given that we presented virtually by video from Toronto, while the other finalists were in Nashville for this year’s in-person conference,” says Zachariah. The ECIC is an annual case competition run by Electric International and NECA Student that provides university students and faculty advisors an opportunity to actively engage with a range of industry professional and other Student Chapters. This year’s competition focused on designing an innovative, and efficient electrical system, based on NECA-approved construction documents and building information models, for a new student dorm residence that would meet the needs of future UofT students. By Phill Snel Read More

CivMin professor on a mission to lower concrete’s carbon footprint

October 14, 2021

The carbon footprint of concrete is mainly due to the chemistry of Portland cement, one of its key ingredients. Research by U of T engineering professor Doug Hooton (CivMin) shows that a few simple substitutions can cut this carbon footprint in half. (Photo: twenty20photos, via Envato Elements)

For Professor Doug Hooton (CivMin), the challenge isn’t really the chemistry or the engineering. It’s trust.

“Construction is a very conservative industry, and it’s very decentralized,” he says. “You have building owners, architects, structural engineers, contractors and their tradesmen. None of them want to increase their risk by doing something different from what’s been done before.”

For more than a decade, Hooton and his team have been demonstrating that a few simple adjustments to the formulation of concrete can significantly reduce its environmental impact, without affecting its cost or performance.

They have conducted extensive field trials, and Hooton has even written standards to encourage the use of these modified materials. But it has been slow going.

“All of this stuff is really just the low-hanging fruit,” he says. “You’d think it would be a no-brainer, but it isn’t.”

The challenge with concrete starts with the chemistry of one of its key ingredients: Portland cement. To make it, producers mix limestone — which is mostly calcium carbonate — with various clay minerals and process it through a kiln at very high temperatures.

In the kiln, the calcium loses its carbon, which is driven off as CO2 gas, and then combines with silica, alumina and other elements in the clay to create clinker — the precursor to cement. Portland cement is then made by grinding clinker together with gypsum into a fine power.

The carbon dioxide gas emitted during the kiln reactions, combined with emissions from burning fossil fuels to heat the kiln, mean that for every kilogram of cement clinker produced, a nearly equivalent mass of CO2 is emitted.

One way to address this challenge is to change the formulations of the cementing materials to lower their carbon footprints. Hooton has championed national and international standards for a material known as Portland-limestone cement, which replaces up to 15% of the final cement powder with ground raw limestone.

The resulting material is a drop-in replacement for Portland cement in concrete, and is able to meet the same performance standards, as Hooton has shown through laboratory experiments and field trials.

“For example, one of the concerns that has been raised is the idea that this type of cement might be susceptible to attack by sulphates,” he says. “Sulphate minerals are common in soils in Western Canada, and can degrade some types of concrete if they are not designed for it.”

Through the NSERC/Cement Association of Canada Industrial Research Chair in Concrete Durability and Sustainability, Hooton initiated a field trial that has now been running for 11 years. His team cast more than 1,000 beams of concrete, some made with traditional Portland cement, and others made with Portland-limestone cement. All the beams were then exposed to aggressive sulphate solutions.

In this photo from 2010, then-graduate student Reza Ahani (CivMin PhD 1T9) prepares concrete samples made with various formulations for testing. (Photo Doug Hooton)
In this photo from 2010, then-graduate student Reza Ahani (CivMin PhD 1T9) prepares concrete samples made with various formulations for testing. (Photo: Doug Hooton)

“We take them out and look at them every year,” he says. “The ones made with Portland-limestone cement are fine, in fact they’re actually performing better than many traditional concretes that have been specifically designed to stand up to sulphates.”

In addition to pure limestone, Hooton and his team have also tested other potential cement clinker replacements for use in concrete. One of these is a substance known as blast furnace slag, a waste product of the iron and steel industry, which can be mixed with either Portland cement and Portland-limestone cement at levels of up to 75%. This cuts the overall amount of cement used, lowering emissions proportionally.

“A switch to Portland-limestone cement, followed by a substitution of 35 to 40% slag would cut the carbon footprint of the resulting concrete by about half,” says Hooton.

Hooton says that one of the concerns about using slag is that at high replacement levels, it slows down the time it takes for the concrete to gain strength. This affects the early-age strength required to allow different construction operations, though the final strength is the same.

“We build structures to last 100 years, not just a few weeks,” he says. “So the final strength, which you reach at about 90 days, is what matters. On that timeline, we’ve shown that blast furnace slag mixed with Portland-limestone cement actually works better than with Portland cement because of reactions that happen between carbon in the limestone and alumina compounds in the slag.”

To deal with the early-age strength issue, Hooton and his team have done research on advanced testing methods. Currently, most standards for cement and concrete are based on testing the strength of the material after 28 days.

While this is sufficient time for traditional Portland cement to develop its properties, as noted above, some cement replacements can lengthen this timeline. Specifiers are resistant to adopting new protocols that will take two or three times as long as those they are used to.

“We can accelerate the testing process by increasing concrete temperature,” says Hooton. “It’s not rocket science, and we’ve known how to do it for decades. If we can give you a good indicator at 28 days of what’s going to happen at 90 days, it might grease the wheels in terms of getting these alternative materials more widely adopted.”

Hooton’s views and evidence carry weight: he serves as the chair of the CSA Group’s Committee on Concrete Materials and Methods of Concrete Construction and the chair of the Durability of Concrete committee of the American Concrete Institute. He is also the chair of the ASTM International committee on cements.

But he points out that simply creating standards is not enough to have lower-carbon footprint materials used in practice. To this end, he recently partnered with a team of experts on a new initiative aimed at identifying the barriers to rapid adoption of carbon reduction technologies in the North American concrete industry

The collaboration includes Dr. Tom Van Dam of NCE, an American engineering consulting firm, Professor Larry Sutter of Michigan Technological University and Al Innis, a former Vice-President of Lafarge-Holcim, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of building materials.

“In phase 1 of this project , we’re looking at the overall flows of cements, from where it’s produced to where it’s utilized, and identifying the barriers to adoption of more sustainable cementitious materials at each point along that chain,” he says.

“After that, we’re going to be developing a plan to systematically address those barriers. What we’re looking for are the big plays, including the places where some education and technology transfer will increase trust of the various parties in construction and make the most impact. And I’m optimistic we’ll find them.”

By Tyler Irving

This story originally posted by Engineering News

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CivMin alumnus is finalist for £1-million Earthshot Prize

October 12, 2021

First-ever Earthshot Prize winners to be announced Sunday, October 17

Olugbenga Olubanjo (CivE MASc 1T9), Founder and CEO of Reeddi Inc with a Reeddi Energy Capusule. (Ian Willms / Panos Pictures)

Reeddi Inc, headed by CivMin alumnus Olugbenga Olubanjo (CivE MASc 1T9), has been named one of 15 finalists of the inaugural Earthshot Prize. The announcement, made Friday, September 17, 2021 by Prince William via video, acknowledges the company as one of only three finalists in the “Fix Our Climate” category. Five winners will be awarded The Earthshot Prize and with it a £1-million prize to be announced during an awards ceremony Sunday, October 17, 2021 from London’s Alexandra Palace.

According to the online announcement, each finalist was thoroughly vetted for the prestigious prize: “Each of the Finalist’s solutions excelled in the rigorous screening process and were assessed on their potential to create game-changing impact around the world, their ability to help us reach our Earthshot goals while also positively impacting people, communities and the natural world.

“The Earth is at a tipping point and we face a stark choice: either we continue as we are and irreparably damage our planet, or we remember our unique power as human beings and our continual ability to lead, innovate and problem-solve. People can achieve great things. The next ten years present us with one of our greatest tests – a decade of action to repair the Earth.”
Prince William

The clean-tech startup created something unique to assist those in areas of the world with vulnerable and unreliable energy infrastructure. Reeddi Capsules are portable and rechargeable batteries powered by solar charging stations. Its solar-powered device, a lithium battery, can be rented for $0.50 a day, allowing affordable and dependable energy for those otherwise unable to obtain the service.

According to the company, over 600 households and businesses receive clean electricity via its product monthly. It has a goal of serving 12,000 new households and businesses monthly by the end of 2021.

In advance of the live announcement we asked Olubanjo a few questions.


Reeddi, the company you conceived and founded while completing your MASc in civil engineering at U of T, is a finalist for the first-ever Earthshot Prize. How did you hear of the decision and what was your immediate reaction?
We were very excited about the nomination. It’s a reward for years of hard work that our team here at Reeddi has put into unlocking a model that seems impossible in a challenging business environment. We are very happy to see how far we have come as company in order to be recognized for such a prestigious award. We’re even more pumped to leverage the support from the award to scale our innovation and accelerate it’s impact in more energy-poor communities and regions.


Over the last two years the company has grown from one with a concept and prototype, to a working product being distributed and used by people. How has this impacted how your company is received now, versus before?
The progress has brought good credibility for the company. People, who had originally questioned our model, are starting to see something there. We have also learned quite a lot, operationally speaking, about what to do, and not do, as far as operation and innovation is concerned. It’s a challenging journey with a lot of highs and low, but we are excited about being able to walk through the early prototype period to where we are today. We have built a solid reputation now and people take us more seriously because of some of the visible results of our innovation and progress. We are still just starting to establish ourselves and have a long way to go.


You’ve taken on a staff and had to manage teams of people. It’s much more than a few colleagues at university with a concept. How have your managed the transition to a manager of not only a product, but of many people, and all the bureaucracy along with it?
Yeah – It’s been a lot of learning. I guess that is one of the things I love most about Innovation and Technology. As the company scales, the founders and founding team have to increase their combined knowledge and managerial capacity to sustain the venture growth. There have been a lot of reading, seminars, trial-by-error learning, and mentorship from experienced advisors. Our focus is to build a solid operational system that will effectively scale our product and facilitate allied business opportunities. It’s not been an easy journey. I think the beauty of growth is that it’s fulfilling. You know you are not who you used to be and you are better than who you are last month in knowledge and capacity. Also, we are lucky to have smart, motivated and dynamic team members who work tirelessly and are very passionate about  scaling  and accelerating the impact of our innovation.


Reeddi is operating on two continents with very different time zones. How are you coping with this hurdle?
I guess my internal system has normalized that – it has always been the case when we started the company while I was a student at U of T. So, I guess it’s pretty normal now. The operational systems we have in place makes things run smoothly as a company.


What do you hope to do with the £1-million prize if Reeddi wins an Earthshot Prize?
The funding will be leveraged to build and optimize our hardware & digital infrastructures required to scale our innovation and accelerate its impact to more communities and regions.


Is there any part of your education at U of T Engineering that has prepared you for your current role?
Yes, a lot. From clear communication to research. I left UofT equipped with essential and excellent skills needed to run the firm. We do a lot of communication, analysis, forecasting and research at Reeddi, which are skills I picked up at U of T.


What advice would you have for students considering an entrepreneurial pursuit at U of T?
Just do it!  If you are interested in anything, then chase it. In the failure comes the victory. When we started Reeddi as an idea, we had people tell us it’s a joke. But we believe ourselves and pressed on. These same folks celebrate us today. So, damn the uncertainties and just go for it. The beauty of entrepreneurship is even if you fail, and things don’t work at the time, you are equipped with some practical skills that cannot be learned by just reading. It scales the way you think by default and changes the way you approach anything and everything.


What’s next?
For us at Reeddi, we are working on a couple of allied innovations that will leverage some of the exciting infrastructure we have built to scale Reeddi. We are aware this is a long-term play and are seeing a couple of allied innovations and opportunities we are positioning ourselves to capture. We plan to scale our innovation globally and we are very excited about the numerous opportunities that lies ahead.

Tune in to the inaugural Earthshot Prize Ceremony in London on Sunday, October 17 at 8 p.m. local time (3 p.m. ET) on BBC One in the UK and available to stream globally on Discovery’s Facebook. It will also available to stream on discovery+ from 19 October

The awards ceremony will celebrate the global Finalists before awarding the first five Winners of The Earthshot Prize.


By Phill Snel



Reeddi named a finalist by Prince William for Earthshot Prize

REEDDI: Putting power in the hands of the people


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Large carbon footprint of new house construction mostly due to concrete basements

September 29, 2021

A new analysis by U of T Engineering researchers shows that concrete basements are the top driver of material intensity for new single-family homes. (Photo: twenty20photos, via Envato Elements)


Analysis of 40 homes in Toronto suggests zoning and construction strategies that could reduce the environmental impact of new builds.

A team of U of T Engineering researchers has some practical advice for developers, homeowners and urban planners who want to reduce their environmental impact.

Prof. Shoshanna Saxe

“Simply put, you should build as small as you can for what you need, and if possible, you should avoid having a basement,” says Professor Shoshanna Saxe (CivMin), senior author of a paper recently published in Resources, Conservation and Recycling.

Saxe and her team are experts in life cycle analysis, a way of accounting for the environmental impact of new infrastructure. According to the Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction, buildings accounted for 38% of global carbon emissions in 2020, compared with only 23% from the transportation industry. This includes emissions produced during construction as well as operation, including natural gas heating or coal-powered electricity.

“In downtown Toronto there are a lot of new condominiums going up, but if you look almost anywhere else, you’ll see that mostly what we’re building these days is single-family homes,” says Saxe. “That form is inherently challenging when it comes to carbon emissions, and it’s made more so by the fact that we’re building much bigger houses than we used to.”

To analyze how newly constructed houses fare when it comes to environmental impact, Saxe and her team made use of publicly available data from the City of Toronto’s Committees of Adjustment. They were able to access detailed plans for 40 single-family homes set to be built in the city in 2020 and 2021.

After extracting data on what materials were being used, in what quantities and for which components of the building, the team was able to calculate material intensity: a measure of how many kilograms of material are consumed either per square metre, per bedroom, or per building. This in turn provides a useful proxy for greenhouse gas emissions due to construction.

In general, larger houses had a higher material intensity than smaller ones. This was true even when the researchers looked at material intensity on a per bedroom basis, as a proxy for how many people will live in the house. Because the bedrooms in large houses were proportionally larger, they used even more material than those in small ones.

But the real surprise came when the team looked at how much of the overall material intensity could be attributed to various components of the building: for example, how wood-framed walls compared with brick facades.

“What we found was that concrete basements were by far the largest driver of material use, accounting for an average of 56% of the total material intensity,” says Aldrick Arceo (CivMin PhD candidate), lead author of the new study.

“In terms of greenhouse gas emissions, the picture gets even worse, because concrete is carbon-intensive – a lot of emissions get created during its manufacture. This is in contrast to other materials such as wood, which is theoretically carbon neutral.”

Another driving factor is that basements are a lot bigger in new homes than in older ones. This is partly due to a desire for more space, but it may also be impacted by zoning requirements that limit how much of the house can be above ground.

“In a lot of areas, taller buildings are prohibited, as are buildings that come too close to the edge of the property,” says Arceo. “These kinds of rules incentivize underground construction. Basements are no longer just the foundation, they are designed to be part of the living space.”

The team hopes that by improving estimates of the underlying material intensity, they can help create more accurate life cycle analysis models.

But more importantly in the short term, they hope that their findings about what drives material intensity — and what doesn’t — will help engineers and developers design greener buildings and encourage urban planning policies that support them.

“The vast majority of the conversation about sustainable houses right now is about gadgets and technology,” says Saxe. “People want to put solar panels on the roof, or point out how they are using better insulation. Those are great, but it’s also really important to think about how much of a difference you can make by building something that is reasonably sized, using a reasonable amount of material.”

By Tyler Irving

This story originally posted by Engineering News

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Reeddi named a finalist by Prince William for Earthshot Prize

September 17, 2021

Olugbenga Olubanjo (CivE MASc 1T9), Founder and CEO of Reeddi Inc with a Reeddi Energy Capusule. (Photo: Press Images)


Reeddi Inc, headed by CivMin alumnus Olugbenga Olubanjo (CivE MASc 1T9), has been named one of 15 finalists of the inaugural Earthshot Prize. The announcement, made Friday, September 17, 2021 by Prince William via video, acknowledges the company as one of three finalists in the “Fix Our Climate” category.

The clean-tech startup created something unique to assist those in areas of the world with vulnerable and unreliable energy infrastructure. Reeddi Capsules are portable and rechargeable batteries powered by solar charging stations. Its solar-powered device, a lithium battery, can be rented for $0.50 a day, allowing affordable and dependable energy for those otherwise unable to obtain the service.

According to the company, over 600 households and businesses receives clean electricity via its product monthly. It has a goal of serving 12,000 new households and businesses monthly by the end of 2021.

Five of the 15 finalists announced will be awarded The Earthshot Prize and will win £1million in Prize funding for the best solutions of the five Earthshot goals: Protect and Restore Nature; Clean our Air; Revive our Oceans; Build a Waste-free World; and Fix our Climate.  

The Winners will be announced during an awards ceremony October 17, 2021 from London’s Alexandra Palace.

By Phill Snel


An early look at Olu’s concept for the Reeddi Capsule:

REEDDI: Putting power in the hands of the people


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Megaprojects and the ‘need for speed’: How political indecision affects the timelines of large infrastructure

September 8, 2021


Building a new transit line or a highway almost always takes longer than initially planned. A new study suggests that the biggest contributor to such delays isn’t necessarily the design, planning or even construction phases. Instead, it’s the time required for local or provincial authorities to decide what exactly they want to build.

“Here in Toronto, there is a strong need for infrastructure, such as more housing and better public transit — and really, we needed it years ago,” says CivMin’s Professor Shoshanna Saxe, one of the lead authors of a new study recently published in the European Journal of Transport and Infrastructure Research.

“With this big a deficit, there is a sense of urgency and a need to move fast. On the other hand, large infrastructure is expensive, permanent and causes a lot of disruption. You don’t want to end up building the wrong infrastructure by not taking the time to listen to the people who will be affected by it.”

Back in 2017, a series of joint workshops hosted by U of T and University College London (UCL) brought Saxe together with a new team of collaborators, including her fellow U of T Professor Matti Siemiatycki (Geography) and Dr. Daniel Durrant at UCL’s Bartlett School of Planning.

Given their shared interest in infrastructure, they decided to crunch the numbers on the megaprojects from both Toronto and London, U.K., for which they could gather data.

The goal was to look at how long it takes to go from idea to opening for transport infrastructure, as well as how that time is being spent and whether projects that spend years in deliberation actually benefit from that opportunity for sober second thought.

“We looked at whether the gestational period led to any change along two metrics: either a location change — for example, rail stations in a different location — or a technological change in the project,” says Saxe.

“If we can point to either of those, it suggests that the time spent considering and reconsidering the project at least resulted in some change, potentially for the better. But for a lot of projects we looked at, things didn’t change that much.”

The team analyzed 16 projects with a total cost of more than $500 million from Toronto, and a further 10 with a cost of more than £500 million from London. Of these, more than half did not change significantly by the time construction started.

This is despite the fact that, in many cases, the informal planning periods lasted much longer than the actual building phase.

“Consultation and consideration before we invest billions of dollars is important,” says Saxe. “But there is also an opportunity cost to not acting. There’s a lot of good tied up in these projects that we could have had much earlier, if we had moved faster.”

Saxe says that in her opinion, the negative consequences of this ‘analysis paralysis’ are evident in the current infrastructure landscape of the Greater Toronto Area.

“Not building something is a choice,” she says. “Here in Toronto, we allowed our population to outgrow the carrying capacity of our public transportation network, to the point where a huge number of people now have no choice but to drive cars, with all of the cost, pollution and congestion that come with that.”

“We didn’t consciously design that system — rather it was a consequence of not choosing to design a different one. What I would like to see is an honest discussion about priorities, and a commitment to following through with the funding necessary to make them a reality.”

By Tyler Irving

This article originally published by Engineering News


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A cast of many to plan and run U of T Camp

August 24, 2021

A last-minute scramble to clean newly built facilities at U of T Camp, prior to the arrival of students, the morning of Saturday, August 14, 2021. (Photo by Phill Snel)

For over a century U of T students have been making a summer pilgrimage to cottage country as part of their course CME 358, known as Civil And Mineral Practicals (CAMP). Last year’s start of the worldwide pandemic saw the cancellation of the beloved event for 2020.

The annual August trek for Civil & Mineral Engineering third-year students to U of T Camp always takes some planning and preparation. This year, however, the hurdles to overcome safety concerns and pandemic protocols took a great deal more coordination than usual.

Besides the professors and instructors present at Camp, on Gull Lake, near Minden, Ont., many others have worked to ensure a safe return to in-person classes for all those involved. Planning and preparation began months before, with an optimistic view the province would allow overnight camps come the summer.

As we all now know, the path to ensuring a safe in-person experience at Camp has not been easy and is ongoing. The following people are some of the many who made Camp possible for 2021.


Loreto Caprara organizes boxes of disinfectant, masks and other PPE. (Photo by Phill Snel)

Brent Sleep, Chair
Leadership from the top comes with the responsibility to coordinate with many other individuals and groups. The countless meetings, as well as diplomatic efforts, resulted in a successful plan and execution of Camp for 2021.

Loreto Caprara, Director of Technical Services
Charged with the monumental task of logistics to supply Camp, Loreto Caprara set out not only to source the usual needed gear, such as a surveying equipment, but also PPE. He sourced rapid testing kits, N95 masks, eye protection and a large array of disinfectant dispensing paraphernalia.
A few days before the first students were to arrive for Camp 1, Caprara drove a load of supplies to Camp himself, ensuring a full supply of PPE was pre-staged at the site.



Finance and Administration

Michelle Deeton (Supplied)

Michelle Deeton, Director of Finance and Administration
George Kabanov, Financial Manager
Mirna Eljazovic, Financial Assistant
Fannie Yu, Financial Administrative Assistant
Diane McCartney, Administrative Assistant

Everything runs, of course, on funding, so logically everyone in the Finance and Administration Office held a part in preparing and running Camp.

Some highlights from the Business Office, as listed by Michelle Deeton, the Director of Finance and Administration, are: catering, new boats and the team effort on all the bits and pieces.

Catering – through 2019 – 2021 we worked on a tender to purchase three-years worth of catering.  There’s a new catering for 2021 – 2023 and the reviews for the new catering have been fabulous. The tender evaluation committee include Prof. Karl Peterson and Loreto Caprara.

Selling and buying boats – we sold two boats and bought a new one.  Procurement, trips to Service Ontario, getting letters from Governing Council, Transport Canada licensing – working with the marina on delivery. With tremendous input from boaters Professor Emerita Brenda McCabe and Prof. Lesley Warren.

Tara Nelson (in Prof. Warren’s group) and Diane McCartney did a lot of the purchasing of supplies, including many COVID testing kits. Plus Mirna Eljazovic has reviewed all those expense reimbursements for items people bought for Camp. George Kabanov paid invoices and Fannie Yu helped with the payroll for Camp.

Student Leadership

Civ Club
Civ Club held a live information session online, the week before Camp 1 was set to depart, for all participants. The live Q&A event helped to fully answer questions for students.


New Buildings at Camp

Kian Zehtabchi, Project Manager, Capital Projects – U of T
Mike Carere – Property Manager, Facilities & Services – U of T
Lisa Neidrauerformerly with U of T, University Planning
Prof. Emerita Brenda McCabeFaculty & Project Lead
Tom Saint-Ivany
, Director, Facilities & Infrastructure Planning – FASE
Mike Moro, Nick Moro and Scott Giroux  – Morosons Construction, General Contractor
Terence Van Elslander & Davide Gianforcaro, V+A Architects

A photo from U of T Camp on Gull Lake, near Minden, Ont. on Saturday, August 14, 2021. Newly built facilities, include the HCAT Bunkhouse (right), MacGillivray Student Lounge (centre), as well as new washroom and showers. (Photo by Phill Snel)

The new HCAT Bunkhouse, MacGillivray Common Room and new washroom facilities were ready for Camp 1 on Saturday, August 14. The long-term project was launched with a ceremonial ground breaking September 2019 at Camp, with actual construction beginning during the pandemic the summer of 2020.

Just over a year later, the flexible-use facilities assisted in the physical distancing, and separation, of the participants. With six separate bunkrooms, each with two separated spaces, have made it possible to create smaller cohorts of roommates as part of pandemic protocols to safeguard the health of campers.

In addition to the new buildings, also included in the new infrastructure was a new state-of-the-art sewage treatment system.

With the new insulated facilities, it might be considered more as “glamping” than camping now. Take a tour of the new buildings.

Environmental Health and Safety

L to R: Andrey Shukalyuk, Genalyn Lo and Irene Tang. (Supplied)

Andrey Shukalyuk, Health and Safety Advisor – FASE 
Genalyn Lo, Occupational Health Nurse, EHS
Irene Tang, Joint Health & Safety Committee Manager , EHS

The combined efforts of Environmental Health and Safety professionals within the University and the Faculty allowed for planning and ongoing support. Andrey Shukalyuk was instrumental in providing assistance with planning the protocols required and General Assessment Tool (GAT). Irene Tang provided the loan of an automated external defibrillator (AED) to CivMin for the duration of Camp. Genalyn Lo held continuous involvement with health & safety assessments and ensuring U of T & public health protocols are followed. Currently she is leading the COVID-19 contact tracing management and acting as the University’s Public Health Liaison.

Troost ILead

Prof. Patricia Sheridan (left) and Albert Huynh on Saturday, August 14, 2021.. (Photos by Phill Snel)

Prof. Patricia Sheridan, Associate Director, Undergraduate Curriculum and Albert Huynh, Leadership Education and Curriculum Coordinator

For the first time ILead (Troost Institute for Leadership Education in Engineering) held a workshop for students at Camp. The session delved into teambuilding exercises and methods of establishing mutual trust in work groups.

Some creative license with plastic building blocks, with students assigned to different roles, made for an exercise in conveying how important communication is with project management and teamwork.


Cleaning Crew

Cleaning crew (L to R: Tammy Alton, Debbie Sisco and Beatrice Alton take break outside of the new bunkhouse U of T Camp on Gull Lake, near Minden, Ont. on Saturday, August 14, 2021. (Photo by Phill Snel)

Tammy Alton, Debbie Sisco and Beatrice Alton

What in the past was routine daily cleaning, has turned into thoroughly sanitizing many high-touch surfaces multiple times a day. The usual rigour of  cleaning was heightened by the new requirements for preventing the spread of COVID.

Kudos to the cleaning crew for Camp 2021.




CivMin IT

Derek Boodoosingh, Computer Network Manager; Matt Wong, Service Coordinator; Dave Seto, Computer Systems Administrator

CivMin IT staff (clockwise from top left): Matt Wong, Derek Boodoosingh and Dave Seto. (Photo by Phill Snel via Zoom)

The entire CivMin IT team prepared student and faculty laptops for Camp well before the instruments left the St. George campus.

Additionally, as an unseen component to most, the IT team lent expertise to the CivMin Shopify store set up specifically for this year’s Camp. A special shoutout to Matt Wong for unscrambling some unforeseen issues.

Student Services Office 

Nelly Pietropaolo, Director of Student Services (along with husband Domenic Pietropaolo)
Shayni Curtis Clarke, Undergraduate Student Advisor
Rebecca Logan, Communications Assistant;
Phill Snel, Communications Officer

Nelly Pietropaolo with her homemade chocolate chip cookie bars. (Photo by Phill Snel via Teams)

Shayni Curtis Clarke. (Photo by Phill Snel viaTeams)

Nelly Pietropaolo took on the unenviable task of organizing students into their various camps, but sent a bit of herself to Camp too. Each student received a gift pack of a CivMin mug with a card and a serving of homemade cookies from Nelly too. As well, Pietropaolo personally saw students board their bus for Camps 1, 2 & 3.

Shayni Curtis Clarke coordinated with the undergraduate CivMin students to ensure all who needed CME358, in order to fulfill graduation requirements, attended Camp.

Rebecca Logan and Phill Snel lent a hand with rapid tests prior to bus boarding for Camps 2, 3 and 4, as well as coordinating logistics via online spreadsheets, questionnaires and more.


Camp Kitchen Staff

Bonnie Kubica, Head Chef; Amanda Harrison, Cook; Lachlan McLellan, Prep Cook; Henry Hackbarth, Prep Cook

Kitchen Staff 2021 (L to R): Bonnie Kubica, Amanda Harrison, Lachlan McLellan and Henry Hackbarth. (Photos by Phill Snel)

Similar to creating a battle plan, a white board in the kitchen outlines the week-to-week schedule and dietary needs of those attending Camp. Tackling the challenges, and embracing the opportunity, the team delivers delicious options daily for their diverse audiences.

An additional complexity, dealing with overlapping arrivals and departures of students, saw the solution of providing boxed lunches to departing students so new arrivals could be greeted with a hot lunch.

Watercraft Maintenance

Chad Grimbly.

Chad Grimbly, Sturgeon Lake Marine Repair

The “boat guy” puts the boats (Sir Veyor and Morning Star) in the water for Camp and takes them out to transport for winter storage. He also fixes anything on the boats  – like adding second gas tanks and attaching fish finder aerials, as well as trawling motor.




Site Management

John Sisco, Site Manager
Scott Loughnan, Site Maintenance

John Sisco (left), Site Manager at U of T Camp and Scott Loughnan, Site Maintenance. (Photos by Phill Snel)

Ongoing maintenance at U of  T Camp involves so many complex systems, including an independent water filtration system providing on-site potable water, which are largely unseen by most who visit. As part of fire prevention measures there are fire hoses throughout the grounds, all feeding from the lake, with a dedicated pump at the shore.

Preparing for the arrival of students had an added twist of relocating beds to the new HCAT Bunkhouse. The new buildings have added more complexities to the existing facilities, including new plumbing and weeping systems for the added bathrooms and showers, but John and Scott are handling the challenges superbly.

Instructors, Teaching Assistants & Research Technicians:

James Arrey (PhD Candidate), Wenxi Liao (PhD Candidate), Felicia Liu (Research Technician), Jad Saade (MASc Candidate), Jody Scott (PhD Candidate), Lauren Twible (PhD Candidate)

(L to R): James Arrey, Wenxi Liao, Felicia Liu, Jad Saade , Jody Scott and Lauren Twible. (Photos Submitted and by Phill Snel)


Professors Evan Bentz,  Jennifer Drake, Karl Peterson, Lesley Warren

Professors (L to R): Evan Bentz, Jennifer Drake, Karl Peterson and Lesley Warren. (Photos by Phill Snel)

Finally, of course, are the students to be recognized. For it is without their presence Camp would not be held. Everyone turned out to Camp with at least one vaccination, some with a PRC test, and with a tremendous amount of fortitude.

Enduring a pre-entry rapid test, then multiple more rapid tests at Camp, combined with ever-present protocols to socially distance and constantly wear a mask, created more of a mental demand than had been required over the previous century of Camp.

Thanks goes out to this incredible cast of many, who together allowed Camp to go ahead this year.

~ CivMin


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Introducing Camp’s newest facilities

August 20, 2021

Newly constructed buildings at the University of Toronto Camp have received the first student occupants


A photo from University of Toronto Camp on Gull Lake, near Minden, Ont. on Saturday, August 14, 2021. Newly built facilities, include the HCAT Bunkhouse (at right), MacGillivray Common Room (at left), as well as new washroom and showers. Civil and Mineral Practicals (CAMP, course code CME358) is a course held by the Department of Civil & Mineral Engineering (CivMin) in the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering (FASE), at the University of Toronto. (PHOTO BY: Phill Snel, CivMin)


The newly constructed buildings at the University of Toronto Camp on Gull Lake, near Minden, Ont., were opened with little fanfare on Saturday, August 14, 2021. Students, fresh off a bus from downtown Toronto, disgorged promptly with luggage and sought out their assigned rooms less than an hour after rooms were cleaned and beds installed. Nevertheless, students were properly impressed.

Utterances of “Wow. Cool. Nice,” were heard as eyes gazed upwards to high ceilings in the HCAT Bunkhouse, the MacGillivray Common Room, washrooms and the individual private shower rooms.

Occupancy limits for rooms have been imposed as safety precautions during the pandemic, with the usually expected bunkbeds not yet put to use.

Finishing touches, such as permanent signage – both indoors and outdoors – will be installed after Survey Camp is completed.

Read about the first arrivals at Camp 2021.

Take a virtual tour with this slideshow









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Camp hosts the first in-person Engineering classes after 17-month hiatus

August 16, 2021

The first students to arrive in the new HCAT Bunkhouse at U of T Camp on Saturday, August 14, 2021, explore their room. (Photo by Phill Snel / CivMin)

Stepping off a bus to set foot on the ground isn’t usually considered a historic event, but it’s exactly what CivMin students accomplished Saturday with their arrival at Survey Camp.

“It’s great to see you all for in-person classes, and not just see black boxes on a screen,” remarked Prof. Evan Bentz at the beginning of his Survey course.

No in-person Engineering courses have been held since Friday, March 13, 2020, making the arrival of students on Saturday, August 14, just over 17 months afterwards, the first to attend in-person classes. The annual pilgrimage of CivMin students to the U of T Survey Camp on Gull Lake, near Minden, Ont., for the course Civil and Mineral Practicals – aka CAMP, known formally as CME358 – was suspended last year due to the pandemic.

CivMin students listen to Prof. Lesley Warren (right) discuss water sample collection methods, while aboard the boat Sir Veyor on Gull Lake, as part of their studies at U of T Survey Camp on Sunday, August 15, 2021. (Photo by Phill Snel / CivMin)

CivMin students use a Total Station for surveying as part of their studies at U of T Survey Camp on Sunday, August 15, 2021. (Photo by Phill Snel / CivMin)

A COVID rapid test, with negative result, at Survey Camp on Saturday, August 14, 2021. (Photo by Phill Snel / CivMin)

Given the ongoing global pandemic, numerous steps have been undertaken to ensure the safety of all participants. Precautions taken include ensuring all attendees had already received a COVID vaccination, and with all students receiving a COVID rapid test before being allowed to board the bus from U of T’s St. George campus to Gull Lake. Those arriving independently receive a rapid test as well, before being allowed to fully access the grounds. Additional testing of students is to be ongoing throughout their week-long stay, with masks compulsory indoors and when physical distancing is not possible outdoors. Further, keeping males and females in separate cohorts, as well as keeping to working groups of the same three or four individuals throughout the week.

Another first at Survey Camp is the outdoor dining tent, which many claim is a far better alternative than the usual indoor experience, hoping to retain the new experience for future years.

Three condensed one-week sessions are planned instead of the usual two two-week sessions held in previous years. Students undergo class and field assignments in Surveying and Systems, which involves environmental data collection methods.

“Be sure to thank the Dean, if you wind up attending a ‘Coffee with Chris’ or meeting him this fall,” proclaimed Prof. Lesley Warren to her students attending the class who go out on Gull Lake to take water samples, and to streams to measure flow, pollution and more. “The funding we needed  for our boat, equipment and everything, came from the Dean’s Strategic Fund (DSF).” The ability to assess water and think about how to incorporate water resources into sustainable engineering design is a component of the study at Survey Camp.

An aerial view of the new buildings at U of T Survey Camp on Saturday, August 14, 2021. (Photo by Phill Snel / CivMin)

A highlight for this first session at Survey Camp, known as Camp 1, is doubly historic as this is the first class of students to use and sleep in the new HCAT Bunkhouse and also enjoy new washroom and shower facilities. With single word reviews spoken aloud as the students entered the building, many utterances of nice, wow and cool were heard.

In the morning, rave reviews of warm bedrooms, despite the chilly night temperatures, and the spacious private shower rooms were conveyed.

Readying the newly built facilities was down to the wire, with the contractor crew finishing Friday evening and cleaning commencing very early the morning of expected arrivals on Saturday.

With students back to in-person classes at Survey Camp, it’s hoped experiences learned will benefit September’s back-to-school for the entire Faculty.

By Phill Snel.

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Q&A with Prof. Elodie Passeport: Can green infrastructure keep microplastics out of the environment?

August 16, 2021


You may have heard of the Great Pacific garbage patch, but the majority of plastic waste in the environment is more subtle: tiny particles ranging from the size of a pea to the thickness of a human hair — and even smaller.

A team of U of T Engineering researchers — including Professor Elodie Passeport (CivMin, ChemE), Professor Jennifer Drake (CivMin) and CivMin PhD student Kelsey Smyth — studies what happens to these microplastics as they make their way into ditches, streams, rivers and lakes, especially during heavy rainstorms. In a paper published earlier this year, they show that human-engineered structures known as bioretention cells are a useful strategy for controlling microplastics in the environment.

Writer Tyler Irving sat down with Passeport to talk about some of her recent research.


Can you briefly describe the challenge you’re dealing with?

Any time it rains in an urban area, the water doesn’t infiltrate into the soil the way it would in nature, because there are roads and parking lots and buildings in the way. The water flows over them and carries anything accumulated on these surfaces along with it.

Microplastics are one of the many forms of contamination in this water. They often take the form of microfibres that come from our clothing — polyester fabrics, for example — which are not only shed by people walking around the city, but also arrive from further away via atmospheric deposition, that is, through the air. There is also a lot of plastic pieces from litter, such as polystyrene food containers or polyethylene plastic bags, and bits of rubber, mostly from car tires.

The question is: can we filter them out?

What is a bioretention cell?

There are lots of different designs, but what they all have in common is that they aim to control stormwater volumes and peak flows by providing a more natural flow of water. They consist of a depression in the ground from which the natural soil has been removed, and then filled with some kind of engineered media that allows water to flow through. They are often planted with vegetation as well.

Studies carried out at this bioretention cell, located Kortright Centre for Conservation in Vaughan, Ont., suggest that engineered urban green infrastructure can help prevent some types of microplastics from getting into the environment. (Photo: Leanda Rhodes-Dicker)

Over the past 20 years or so, we’ve started to see more bioretention cells in our urban environments: there are some on the Toronto waterfront. One of the ones we’ve studied in detail is at the Kortright Centre for Conservation in Vaughan, Ont., which is managed by the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority.

How can bioretention cells help control microplastic pollution?

Slowing down the flow of water helps control stormwater surges, but it can also help remove solids that are suspended in the water by physically trapping them.

Microplastics are not easily degradable by bacteria, but they are a form of suspended solids, so we wanted to know whether the bioretention cell would be able to trap them.

Did it?

Yes. If you take just a “black box” approach where you only look at what comes in and what goes out, you find that there are 84% fewer particles at the end than at the beginning. But there are some caveats to that.

The first is that we only looked at microplastics whose size ranges from five millimetres down to 100 micrometres, or about the width of a human hair. We don’t know what’s going on at the size fractions smaller than that.

The second is that we didn’t look at what happens to the particles that were filtered out. We know they are not going to biodegrade, at least not on a time scale that is relevant to the life of the bioretention cell.

It is unlikely that the microplastics alone could be the cause of clogging in bioretention cells. But together with other suspended solids, they can increase the time needed for water to infiltrate, and the media would have to be taken out and replaced.

Microplastics range in diameter from five millimetres down to one micrometre. These plastic beads are used as reference samples in microplastics research by Professor Elodie Passeport and her team. (Photo Ziting (Judy) Xia)

How do you actually measure microplastics in soil or water samples?

It’s actually very time-consuming. The first thing to do is a simple organic digestion, to get rid dissolved organic carbon and the bits of grass or insect parts that you don’t want to count as plastic. Then you can do a separation by density to get rid of minerals or inorganic material that isn’t plastic either.

But then what you have left has to be visually identified by hand using a microscope, to make sure that it really is plastic, and to figure out what kind of plastic it is. We are so lucky to have received the tremendous help of 11 undergraduate students to date on this important manual sorting and counting task, which can take 20 to 40 hours per sample.

We also use chemical analytical methods such as spectroscopy to identify what types of plastics we’re seeing: for example, polyester versus polystyrene. One of the interesting things we find by doing this is that a lot of it is actually cellulosic material. This often comes from cotton clothing, such as blue jeans. That material is not plastic and it is biodegradable, but it doesn’t degrade very quickly, even in engineered environments like bioretention cells.

What would you like to study next?

The ultimate goal would be to help people optimize the new bioretention cells they are building. For example, this filtration that we know is happening: is it happening at the surface of the bioretention cell, or is it happening all the way through the medium? If it’s the former, maybe you only need to replace the top five or ten centimetres every few years to keep the cell working at maximum efficiency.

I also want to know a lot more about the smaller size fractions, the ones we haven’t examined. At a certain point, microplastics turn into nanoplastics, and there’s a lot to learn about those.

We’ve recently joined a new multidisciplinary microplastics research project led by Professor Jill Crossman at the University of Windsor. Professors Miriam Diamond (Earth Sciences, ChemE) and Maria Dittrich (UTSC) are also involved. Together, we’re going to be developing even more tools to track and characterize microplastics from a variety of samples.

We’re also improving our analytical methods. With Shuyao Tan, a PhD student co-supervised with Professor Josh Taylor (ECE), we have developed a simple and fast prediction method of microplastic counts from measurement of a sample mass, which will significantly reduce sample process time.

By Tyler Irving
This article originally published by Engineering News
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Rock music: Listening for induced earthquakes, research by CivMin’s Prof. Goodfellow, is among nine U of T Engineering projects funded through CFI

August 11, 2021

CFI’s John R. Evans Leaders Fund will support research into seismicity, water treatment, bioengineering and more.

In the Rock Fracture Dynamics Facility (CivMin), rock samples are subjected to the stress, fluid pressure and temperature conditions they would experience in nature. The research is one of nine projects boosted by new funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation. (Photo courtesy Sebastian Goodfellow)

From hydraulic fracturing (‘fracking’) to enhanced geothermal systems, human activities can impact the ground beneath our feet, and have even been known to induce minor earthquakes. Professor Sebastian Goodfellow (CivMin) knows how to listen for hidden signals that can tell us what is shifting and how. 

“Think of the cracking sounds a cube of ice makes when you drop it in a cup of warm water, or the sound a wooden stick makes when you bend it until it breaks,” he says. “This occurs as a consequence of sudden localized changes in stress and we study these microfracture sounds in the lab to understand how rock responds to changes in stress, fluid pressure and temperature.” 

The frequency of these sounds is mostly above the human range of hearing, but they can be picked up with acoustic emission (AE) sensors. The challenge is that because scientists can’t predict when they will happen, they have to listen continuously for hours, which leaves them with a lot of data to process.   

“We’re talking about more than a terabyte of data per hour,” says Goodfellow. “We use a form of artificial intelligence called machine learning to extract patterns from these large waveform datasets.” 

Acoustic emission sensors around the rock sample pick up the sounds made by microfractures (depicted as gray or black dots at right). These sounds can be used to better understand where and how induced earthquakes occur. (Image courtesy Sebastian Goodfellow)

Goodfellow is among nine U of T Engineering professors who have received support from the Canada Foundation for Innovation’s John R. Evans Leaders Fund (CFI JELF), announced today. 

His team will use the funding to buy a triaxial geophysical imaging cell fitted with AE sensors as well as hardware for high-frequency acquisition of AE data. This equipment will enable them to carry out controlled experiments in the lab, testing out better algorithms and new techniques to turn the data into insights, and better understand the key processes that lead to induced earthquakes. 

By learning more about how these tiny cracks and pops are related to larger seismic events, such as earthquakes, the team hopes to help people in a wide range of positions make better decisions. 

That includes people who work in industries that inject things underground —geothermal power, hydraulic fracturing and carbon sequestration, among others — along with those who regulate them. 

“Up until now, our poor understanding of the causal links between fluid injection and large, induced earthquakes has limited the economic development of these industries,” says Goodfellow. “Our research will help mitigate the human and environmental impacts, leading to new economic growth opportunities for Canada.” 

The other eight U of T Engineering projects funded through CFI JELF are: 

  • Enabling sustainable e-mobility through intelligent thermal management systems for EVs and infrastructure — Professor Cristina Amon (MIE) 
  • Kinetics-transport interaction towards deposition of carbon particulates in meso-channel supercritical fuel flows — Professor Swetaprovo Chaudhuri (UTIAS) 
  • Durable low ice adhesion coatings laboratory — Professor Kevin Golovin (MIE) 
  • Towards the sustainable development of energy resources: fundamentals & implications of hydraulic fracturing technology — Professor Giovanni Grasselli (CivMin)
  • Combination ribonucleic acid treatment technology lab — Professor Omar Khan (BME) 
  • The Microbiome Engineering Laboratory for Resource Recovery — Professor Christopher Lawson (ChemE) 
  • The Advanced Membranes (AM) Laboratory for Sustainable Water Management and Resource Recovery — Professor Jay Werber (ChemE) 
  • Improving collaboration efficiency for fork-based software development — Professor Shurui Zhou (ECE) 

“We are very proud of the research programs being put together by our faculty members, especially those at the beginning of their careers,” says Ramin Farnood, U of T Engineering’s Vice-Dean of Research. “This research support will help them continue to make positive, vital contributions to our society and the economy.” 

By Fahad Pinto


This story originally published by Engineering News

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Survey Camp set to open and showcase newly built facilities

August 10, 2021

Nearly completed new buildings at U of T Survey Camp on Gull Lake, near Minden, Ont., on Friday, August 7, 2021. The new MacGillivray Student Lounge (left) and HCAT Bunkhouse (right) are part of the highlights of the new flexible-use facilities. (Photo by Phill Snel /CivMin)


Going to an overnight camp is a vastly different experience during a pandemic. Besides a sleeping bag and clothes, campers need to remember masks, hand sanitizer and to keep socially distanced.

The first in-person classes for University of Toronto Engineering students, since March 2020, will be held this August. The classroom setting is a little different, however, as it’s along the shore of Gull Lake, near Minden, Ont., at the U of T Survey Camp.


The first cohort of students is due to arrive Saturday, August 14 for one-week condensed in-person classes at U of T Survey Camp. Three one-week sessions are scheduled instead of the usual two-week sessions offered most years.

A large 20′ x 40′ tent has been erected at U of T Survey Camp on Gull Lake, near Minden, Ont., on Saturday, August 8, 2021. The new tent is to shelter students in an outdoor dining space, in order to allow for social distancing and allow for greater fresh air circulation. (Photo by Phill Snel /CivMin)

The Department of Civil and Mineral Engineering (CivMin) holds the annual class for their department’s students known as Civil and Mineral Practicals (CAMP with course code CME358). The usual two-week course was suspended in 2020 during the beginning of the worldwide pandemic, after all in-person classes and services were halted at U of T. The last day classes were held, or offices open, for in-person visits was Friday, March 13, 2020.

Exhaustive preparations for a safe return to in-person learning has been met eagerly by CivMin. Firstly, as part of U of T policy, participants must have at least one COVID vaccination to attend. Before any student can board the chartered bus for Camp, they must first take a rapid test for COVID. Additionally, all at Camp will undergo daily testing to ensure the continued good health and safety of all. A substantial supply of N95 masks, hand sanitizer, surface cleaners, eye protection and more has been ordered for students, faculty, staff and contractors.

As a necessary precaution, tents are to be used for classroom activities and outdoor dining. An enormous 20 ft. by 40 ft. tent has been erected for outdoor dining and to also provide an outdoor alternative for the students to shelter in case of rain. The well-ventilated outdoor dining tent is located immediately by the Dining Hall, not far from the new bunkhouse and facilities.

A highlight of this year’s trip to Survey Camp is surely the chance to be first to enjoy the newly constructed facilities, which are fully accessible. The new HCAT Bunkhouse, MacGillivray Student Lounge, washrooms and showers allows for much more flexible use than the older structures at the century-old site.

The HCAT Bunkhouse, part of the nearly completed new buildings at U of T Survey Camp on Gull Lake, near Minden, Ont., on Friday, August 7, 2021. The new MacGillivray Student Lounge (and HCAT Bunkhouse are part of the highlights of the new flexible-use facilities. (Photo by Phill Snel /CivMin)

The new bunkhouse features eight separate rooms, each subdivided into two, with a total capacity of 16 per room. Out of an abundance of caution, this year’s capacity will be capped at six per room and a curriculum designed to keep each group together for most assignments, dining and other activities.

A place to unwind has also been thought of, in the form of the MacGillivray Student Lounge. The spacious, high-ceiling structure is to be a focal point of socializing, but will take a back seat to outdoor activities this year as efforts are made to minimize close contact of students.

Numerous new individual shower stalls and new male and female washrooms comprise the third component of the new facilities. As the stalls are independent from the washrooms, traffic flow allows for fair use, on a first-come basis.

As of this writing, finishing touches were still being made to interiors of the buildings, as well as landscaping. We’ll keep you updated!

By Phill Snel


Past stories about Survey Camp include:

Surveying Survey Camp: The Repairs, Renovations and Expansion of Gull Lake


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Stafford 13th in Olympic debut

August 8, 2021

CivMin’s Lucia Stafford reacts after qualifying for women’s 1500m semifinal at the Tokyo Olympic Games on Sunday, August 1, 2021. (Photo: Athletics Canada)

CivMin’s Lucia Stafford (Year 4 CivE) finished 13th overall in the women’s 1500m at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan.

The 21-year-old Toronto native wowed the crowd with a personal best time of 4:03.52 in the Sunday, August 1 heats to qualify in seventh for the semifinals.

Stafford, U of T’s 2019-20 T-Holders’ female athlete of the year, followed that up with another fantastic result, placing sixth in her semifinal on Wednesday, August 4. She posted another lifetime best time of 4:02.12 to narrowly miss the final and finish 13th overall.

Her older sister, University of Toronto Varsity Blues track and field alumna Gabriela DeBues-Stafford, earned a fifth-place finish in the women’s 1500m at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo on the morning of Friday, August 7.


This story originally published by Varsity Blues

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UPDATED: 12 ways U of T is preparing for a safe return to in-person instruction

July 31, 2021

Download a transcript of the infographic

The University of Toronto is closely monitoring the latest public health guidance as it prepares to welcome students, faculty, staff and librarians back to campus this fall.

Ontario’s Ministry of Colleges and Universities recently sent a memo to post-secondary institutions expressing its support for a safe return to in-person learning in alignment with the latest evidence. Further guidance is expected from the province in early August, which U of T will follow in conjunction from guidance from local public health authorities.

“U of T is encouraged by the uptake of vaccinations in Ontario and welcomes the provincial government’s support for efforts to plan a safe return to campus this fall,” said Professor Salvatore Spadafora, a special adviser to U of T’s president on COVID-19 and senior adviser to the dean of the Temerty Faculty of Medicine.

“We are looking forward to resuming in-person learning, campus activities and other experiences in keeping with the latest public health guidance.”

At U of T, planning is already well underway for a safe resumption of in-person classes, with faculties and divisions tailoring their individual plans to meet their unique needs. Residences, meanwhile, are requiring students to be vaccinated in an effort to provide a safe, welcoming and enjoyable experience that is conducive to learning and community-building.

Several other precautions have been taken across the three campuses to curb the risk of COVID-19 transmission. Building ventilation systems are being inspected, air filters have been upgraded where necessary and air purifiers are being added to classrooms as needed. Everyone coming to campus will be required to complete a self-reported health screening and wear face masks indoors.

U of T also continues to work with local public health units to promote vaccine information and has hosted vaccination clinics on its three campuses.

Here are 12 ways U of T is planning for a safe return of in-person instruction this fall:

1. UCheck health screening

Before visiting campus, everyone – students, faculty, staff, librarians, researchers and even contractors – must complete a health screening. The easiest way to do this is by using the university’s online self-assessment tool, UCheck. A paper-based process is also available.

The UCheck questionnaire has been updated to reflect the latest public health guidance, takes just a few minutes to complete and can be accessed via smartphone, tablet or desktop. Submitted data is encrypted in transit and storage to protect users’ privacy.

2. Scheduling changes and capacity limits

Across the university, faculties and divisions are working on plans tailored to meet their individual needs.

“Everyone is committed to providing the rich academic and campus experience for which U of T is known – and it’s unlikely there will be a one-size-fits-all approach,” said Ron Saporta, chief operating officer, property services and sustainability.

“We are reviewing our strategy on a regular basis and will be taking into account any changes to public health guidelines.”

With capacity restrictions being relaxed across the province, U of T anticipates that such limits will be lifted for educational spaces by this fall and will continue to monitor public health directions – making updates to its plans when appropriate.

3. Physical distancing measures

Saporta said U of T is preparing for a variety of scenarios, including the possibility physical distancing may no longer be required indoors this fall – so long as masks are worn.

“We will be able to adapt quickly using an evidence-informed approach that adheres to evolving guidelines and, most importantly, seeks to keep our community safe,” he said.

In the meantime, the university has taken steps to re-orient traffic flow in buildings by posting signage and rearranging furniture and other features to help people maintain a distance from one another if required.

4. Non-medical face masks

The university’s policy requiring non-medical masks to be worn in all indoor spaces will remain in effect in accordance with evolving public health guidelines. U of T’s mask policy and allowable exclusions, as well as answers to frequently asked questions about masks, can all be found on the UTogether site and Chapter 6 of the General Workplace Guideline (GWG).

Health Canada and Toronto Public Health now recommend wearing a well-fitted mask with at least two layers of tightly woven fabric, such as cotton, plus a third middle layer of filter-type fabric, such as non-woven polypropylene.

5. Enhanced cleaning and more sanitizing stations

The university has installed thousands of touchless hand sanitizing stations and sanitizing wipe dispensers across the three campuses. U of T has also ramped up cleaning of common-use areas such as classrooms, libraries, washrooms and lobbies.

Staff frequently wipe down and disinfect high-touch surfaces like door handles, handrails and elevator buttons.

6. Industry-leading classroom ventilation targets


Wall-mounted air purifier in a classroom

(Photo by Johnny Guatto)

Classrooms that will be used for in-person teaching across the three campuses will be equipped for six equivalent air changes per hour, the same standard applied to patient examination rooms, walk-in clinics and other health-care settings.

U of T consulted outside experts in adopting its ventilation standard.

“In the context of the pandemic, we’ve been on top of recommended COVID-19 ventilation safety measures,” said Jelena Vulovic-Basic, a senior manager, operations and maintenance at U of T Facilities & Services.

7. Upgrading building ventilation and air filtration

The university continues to upgrade and monitor heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment where necessary as part of its HVAC strategy. That includes monitoring and maintaining upgraded air filters that capture a greater percentage of smaller particles and outfitting some classrooms with a local air filtration device with high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters.

All building ventilation systems at U of T will continue to undergo regular maintenance to ensure air is clean and flowing into and out of buildings properly.

As an additional measure, the university plans to flush air from enclosed spaces prior to occupancy.

“We turn on the ventilation system two hours before anyone walks through the door, filling the building with clean air,” Saporta said.

8. Contact tracing through QR codes

As part of a voluntary pilot project, people entering some buildings will see posters encouraging them to use UCheck to scan a QR code located at the entrances. The scans will help with contact tracing in the event of a confirmed case of COVID-19.

“If we have an issue, Occupational Health Services can notify people directly about a potential exposure,” said Cathy Eberts, U of T’s director, enterprise applications and deputy chief information officer.

“It’s all through UCheck, so your information is encrypted and only accessible by our occupational health nurse if we need to do contract tracing.

9. Monitoring wastewater in large residences

A pilot project is underway at U of T to monitor sewage for the virus that causes COVID-19.

Some municipalities, including Ottawa, have been using this method to detect the virus – often before those who are infected realize they are sick.

At U of T, the plan is to monitor wastewater from residences that house about 100 people or more – and could be expanded in the future.

“The approach here – which was successfully tested during a pilot earlier this year – is we monitor building wastewater for pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic cases of COVID-19, and if we find it then we implement our outbreak prevention protocol,” Saporta said.

10. Rapid screening for some essential roles

The university is also piloting rapid antigen testing for U of T staff whose role requires frequent face-to-face interaction with the public, such as those working in dentistry and health and wellness.

The screening program was developed by the Creative Destruction Lab – a business accelerator affiliated with the Rotman School of Management – and has been used by the likes of Air Canada and Scotiabank.

The BD Veritor System uses nasal swabs to detect SARS-CoV-2.

The test, which returns a result in as little as 15 minutes, can accurately identify the presence of the coronavirus roughly 85 per cent of the time and can accurately eliminate those who are not infected nearly 100 per cent of the time. Those who test positive will be referred for further testing.

The pilot will expand to include more U of T community members in the fall. Rapid testing will also be used in connection with the wastewater monitoring initiative.

11. Department-specific COVID-19 guidelines and tools

Rather than taking a one-size-fits-all approach, U of T is asking each department to adapt the university’s – and indeed broader public health guidelines – to its own specific circumstances.

“It’s important to contextualize general guidelines to the space where you work,” said Gina Trubiani, U of T’s director, occupational health and safety.

“This allows for a nimbler, more flexible response so departments can apply the general guidelines based on their circumstances.”

More information on department-specific COVID-19 guidelines and tools can be found on the Human Resources & Equity webpage on returning to campus, as well as the Environmental Health & Safety COVID-19 information webpage.

12. Supporting Ontario’s vaccination drive


overhead view of the vaccination clinic at UTM



(Photo by Nick Iwanyshyn)

U of T is encouraging all members of the U of T community to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

It has also supported the province’s vaccination efforts by supplying space and volunteers. That has included hosting a vaccine clinic at U of T Mississauga that was run by Trillium Health Partners and Peel Public Health, a clinic on the St. George campus operated by the University Health Network with participation from Sinai Health and a pop-up clinic at U of T Scarborough that’s operated in collaboration with Scarborough Health Network.

The university has also hosted a vaccine clinic pow wow in June and pop-up clinics on the St. George campus to provide Indigenous Peoples with a culturally safe place to receive their vaccinations.

So far, more than 400,000 doses have been administered at the U of T-hosted sites, which have followed the province’s vaccine priority schedule and ethical guidelines.

“Our main goal is to do what we can to partner with our hospitals and public health to serve our communities,” said Spadafora. “We recognize the important role U of T can play to encourage vaccination across the university and broader community.”

As for the entire 12-step plan, Spadafora said it will evolve with the science and the public health regulations of the day – and as case counts fall and vaccinations increase.

“The university will continue to monitor the effectiveness of these programs, as well as scientific evidence and best practices, and will adapt this program as warranted.”

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This story originally published by U of T News

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Friends and family: U of T’s Lucia Stafford to share track with big sister in Olympic debut

July 26, 2021

Lucia Stafford will compete against her older sister Gabriela DeBues-Stafford in the 1,500-metre race at the Tokyo Olympics. Both athletes studied at U of T and ran track with the Varsity Blues (photo by Johnny Guatto)

In less than two weeks, Lucia Stafford (Year 4 CivE) will come up against the fastest runners in the world in the 1,500-metre race at the Tokyo Olympic Games. But at least one of her chief rivals doesn’t intimidate her – even if she’s ranked among the top five at that distance: her older sister Gabriela DeBues-Stafford.

The two sisters, who both studied at the University of Toronto and ran track with the Varsity Blues, have been pushing each other to their limits long before becoming elite middle-distance runners.

“We’ve been running together since I was in Grade 4 and she was right by my side for all of it, starting on our cottage road – just going for 5K and getting dragged by her and my dad,” Lucia says.

“Now we’re toeing the line on the biggest stage ever. That will be pretty special.”

Terry Radchenko
(photo by Johnny Guatto)

Gabriela, who is three years Lucia’s senior, revealed her potential relatively late for a runner – near the end of high school. Terry Radchenko, an assistant U of T coach for middle-distance and cross-country running, first met her when she was in Grade 10, when she was posting respectable times for her age group but lagged behind the leaders.

Two years later, after training with the U of T track club, Gabriela was leaving her competitors in the dust.

“She didn’t come out of the womb a superstar,” Radchenko says, noting that he’s recorded 10 training logs that capture the Stafford sisters’ progression over many years.

“It took a training effect to bring out Gabriela’s full potential.”


Today, Gabriela is the fifth-fastest woman in the World Athletics Rankings over 1,500 metres and trains with the Bowerman Track Club in Portland, Ore., one of the premier running clubs in the United States and home to world champions and Olympic medal winners.

Yet, during family runs or even strolls, it was Lucia who often took the lead – especially when the two women were younger.

“If we were on a walk in the forest, Lucia would have to be the one at the front of the pack,” Gabriela recently told Canadian Running Magazine. “She’s been a chronic one-stepper since she was a toddler.”

While Lucia denies there’s a sibling rivalry, Radchenko says she’s always keen to prove herself against her older sister.

“She’s not scared of Gabriela,” he says. “When it comes to her sister, there’s no qualms about going head-to-head.”

He points to their duel in the home stretch of the 2017 Ontario University Athletics track and field championships. With about 200 metres left in the race, Lucia pushes ahead of Gabriela, staying basically neck-and-neck with her sister until the very end. After a photo finish, Lucia crumples to the floor in exhaustion. Gabriela, meanwhile, forgoes any celebration and immediately turns back to help her sister to her feet as the third-place runner crosses the line.

Running is in Lucia’s and Gabriela’s genes. Their late mother, Maria Luisa Gardner, was a teacher who coached cross-country in elementary school, while their aunt Sara Gardner, ran in the 1992 world cross-country championships. Their father Jamie Stafford, who happens to be a professor of statistical sciences at U of T and vice-dean of academic operations in Faculty of Arts & Science, represented Canada as a cross-country runner at four world championships.

Lucia Stafford and her father Jamie Stafford, a U of T professor, are joined by Gabriela Stafford, who was training in Portland, Ore. prior to the Tokyo Games (photo by Johnny Guatto)

Heading into the Olympics, Lucia might find comfort in the fact that she ran a personal best of 4:05.70 this year, smashing her previous best record by five seconds. It’s the second-best indoor time in Canadian history after – who else – Gabriela.

“Whenever I’m in a race with her, I have a really good race because I think it’s just having that reminder: This is someone that I’ve run with for years and years, and here we are running together again,” she says.

“The scenery might look a bit different, but at the end of the day, we’re still just running.”

As a civil engineering major in U of T’s Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering, Lucia has had more than just running to think about in recent years.

The day before an important meet to book her ticket to the Olympics, she wrote an exam in geotechnical engineering from her hotel room. In Tokyo, she will spend some of her time off the track completing the requirements for her engineering degree through a summer course on multidisciplinary perspectives on the environment.

“I have to email my TA because the lectures and tutorials are mandatory, but it’s going be, like, 1 a.m. [local time] during the lecture,” she says.

Like her sister, Lucia has also had to cope with Graves’ disease, an autoimmune disorder that causes an overactive thyroid. The disease left Lucia feeling listless and unable to hit prescribed paces. She even once swallowed a radioactive iodine pill to shrink her thyroid gland and alleviate symptoms.

“This pill is no joke,” she told Canadian Running Magazine in 2019. “I set off the alarm in airport security one month later when I was flying to Florida.”

Lucia says she and Kelly have grown especially close over the past year. “It’s kind of like having a stand-in big sister,” she says.

Since they specialize in different events, the two women didn’t have to compete with each other for a spot on the Olympic team – and were relieved when they qualified together.

“I can’t imagine doing it without her,” Kelly says. “I can’t imagine doing it with anyone else.”

Madeleine Kelly (left), a U of T alumna and fellow Varsity Blues runner, trained for the Olympics with Lucia Stafford, forging a close bond in the process (photo by Johnny Guatto)

Making the Olympic team was a process of self-discovery for Kelly. “I think I’ve learned that I’m much tougher than I give myself credit for sometimes,” she says. “Because it was hard – but manageable, as it turns out.”

Kelly’s first race in round one of the 800-metre event takes place on July 30, while Lucia and Gabriela begin their pursuit of Olympic glory three days later.

Lucia’s and Gabriela’s father, meanwhile, plans to cheer on his daughters from back home in Toronto. He cautioned the pair to manage their expectations and avoid putting too much pressure on themselves. “Set the bar low and clear it by a mile,” Lucia recalls him saying.

And while the stats professor is well aware of the improbabilities, his dream result for Lucia and Gabriela in the 1,500 metres comes as little surprise.

“A dead heat for first.”

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