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Ekaterina Tzekova (CivE)

Ekaterina Tzekova (CivE) is a PhD candidate in the Department of Civil Engineering at the University of Toronto. Currently, she is engaged in a project to retrofit the historic Gemini House with sustainable, low-energy technologies. Tzekova is also a co-organizer of the Promise to Future Generations initiative, “an oath that is taken by graduating students and industry representatives to protect the rights of future generations.”

Tzekova sat down with the University of Toronto Sustainability Office to discuss her work and the importance of sustainability in engineering.

How do you define sustainability?

I believe sustainability is thinking with a long-term outlook and taking into account our impacts on future generations. In terms of my research and work, being sustainable is reducing the impacts of buildings on our environment.

What have been your greatest environmental successes? Challenges?

I am currently involved in a project to retrofit an 1870’s historic single family home owned by the University of Toronto, called the Gemini House. Our goals are to significantly reduce the heating demands of the building as well as offer flexible ways to operate the indoor spaces. The added challenge of working with a historic building makes this project very unique.

What exciting environmental opportunities lie ahead for you in your studies, work and/or life?

I am personally very excited to begin testing the design concepts at the historic single family home we are currently working on. If we can show that significant energy savings can be achieved, we can apply our concepts to a variety of other buildings.

What’s the biggest challenge facing U of T students, staff and faculty that keeps our campus from becoming more sustainable?

I believe one of the biggest challenges is changing our behaviour. I believe people in general are supportive of becoming more sustainable, both in their personal and professional lives, but the challenge is to actually make a change. These are not easy problems we are trying to solve, so sometimes the task is very daunting. However, I am a firm supporter of the ‘ripple effect’. If people can start with making small changes pretty soon we will be seeing large impacts!

Who are your eco-heroes?

I am a huge fan of Jacques Cousteau. He was not only a researcher: he also produced films that reached a very large audience and really helped educate people on marine conservation. His red hat was also pretty spectacular.

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