Plenty of projects: Dal's busy Office of Sustainability

- April 25, 2014

Facilities Management's Max Zhao (left) leads a tour of Dal's new Solar PV/solar wall installation on the room of the Goldberg Computer Science Building. (Bruce Bottomley photo)
Facilities Management's Max Zhao (left) leads a tour of Dal's new Solar PV/solar wall installation on the room of the Goldberg Computer Science Building. (Bruce Bottomley photo)

More than 70 student projects. A solar photovoltaic (solar PV) installation at the Tree House at the Agricultural campus. A new Natural Environment Plan. And that’s just scratching the surface.

Every April, Dal’s Office of Sustainability invites the campus community to a lunch-and-learn session to highlight the work that has been done on campus to increase sustainability over the past year.

Rochelle Owen, the director of the office, made a presentation at this year’s event showcasing how Dalhousie is becoming a leader in sustainability. In the 2013-14 academic year, over 70 students worked on projects with the office. They, along with office staff, implemented projects concerning transportation, energy, climate change, food and waste, built and natural environments and other green initiatives.

Learn more: Office of Sustainability website

Some examples that were highlighted at the event included a partnership with the Office of Sustainability and the Dalhousie Student Union which saw the hiring of a full-time student to help with bike repairs and operations, making it more convenient for students to ride their bikes to campus. A student referendum was passed this year to support a long-term Bike Centre Society, and cones were also set up on campus roads during Switch: Open Street Sundays events to create makeshift bike lanes. According to Owen, “A man who was riding with his young daughter said the daughter told him we should rides bikes like this every day.”

The Office of Sustainability also with Facilities Management created waste bin guidelines for campus, worked to maximize the environment for birds, designed a campus rain garden, conducted an all-campus water fixture study and launched its own Twitter account to help awareness about the importance of sustainability.

Owen also discussed Dal’s new Natural Environment Plan, noting the tree diameter replacement policy in particular, which was a highlight of Earth Day celebrations on Tuesday.

Link: A Dal Earth Day celebration

The event also included an optional tour of the solar PV/solar wall system which can be seen on the roof of the Goldberg Computer Science Building. Led by Max Zhao, the mechanical planner at Facilities Management, who was behind the original design idea, the tour noted that the installation is the largest of its type in the country.

According to Dennis Gillis, assistant director of planning at Dalhousie, the installation has “aligned electricity generating and thermal heat generating from solar. This is new, combining these two sources of energy. This is a learning opportunity to expand our knowledge of this type of heating.”

The Computer Science building is the third building on the Halifax campuses that use solar energy, the other two being the Mona Campbell Building and the Life Sciences Centre.

Award winners

The event also celebrated the winners of two of the Office of Sustainability's major competitions: the Brightest Idea, which asked the Dal community for its best, unimplemented ideas to save water and energy, and the Residence Ecolympics competition.

Brightest Ideas Winners


  • 1st Place: Takafumi Osawa, Alana Westwood - Warm/Cool Biz Temp Policy and Campaign
  • Runner-up: Carolyn Marshal – AC Campus better waste signage (consistency, language)


  • 1st Place: James Wilson - Automatic touchless water fixtures
  • Runner-up: Nadine MacDonald - adjust the sensitivity of the auto-flush sensor in the washrooms


  • Mini-rez, Demille House, is the small residence winner for reductions in water and electricity and the overall winner – reductions 28% water and 12% electricity.
  • Eliza Ritchie Hall is the medium-sized residence winner for reductions in water and electricity.
  • Howe Hall is the large residence winner for reductions in water.
  • Shirreff Hall is the large residence winner for reductions in electricity.
  • On the Agricultural Campus, Trueman House is the winning residence for the most commitments to reduce water and energy use.


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