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Heather Maclean (CivE) was recently honoured with a CMHC Excellence in Education Award for the Promotion of Sustainable Practices (Photo: Mark Balson)

8:07 AM: the Gardiner Expressway rumbles with thousands of vehicles driving downtown to work, each with its own combustion engine releasing a barely-visible trail of exhaust into the atmosphere.

Is there a better way to move people around our city? If so, what is it? These are questions that Professor Heather MacLean (CivE) explores in several sustainability-focused courses she’s pioneered at U of T. This week, MacLean was recognized with an Excellence in Education Award for the Promotion of Sustainable Practices by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC).

CMHC established the Excellence in Education Award in 2003 to honour outstanding educational contributions to sustainable practices. Maclean was selected based on her efforts to integrate sustainable community development concepts into the academic curriculum.

MacLean’s research has focused on evaluating the sustainability of products, processes and engineering projects. She has made key contributions in developing novel methods to examine issues related to transportation, energy and urban systems.

“I teach students broadly about sustainability concepts, and focus on a life cycle approach as it is generally viewed as the foundation for sustainability assessment,” said MacLean. “By examining the life cycle of a product or project, from resource extraction, through manufacture/construction, use and end-of-life, students explore the overall impact of developments, taking into account complex environmental and socio-economic factors. I encourage students to think deeply about infrastructure challenges and to develop unique solutions that will benefit society.”

Maclean has created several innovative courses that promote sustainable practices, including the graduate course “Evaluating Sustainability of Engineering Activities”, the first course in Canada – and among the first worldwide – that focused on introducing and applying sustainability and life cycle evaluation methods.

In 2010, MacLean developed the first undergraduate civil engineering course in Canada – and one of only two in North America – on sustainable energy systems. She also completely revamped an existing undergraduate course, “Engineering Project Management and Finance” to include a module focused on sustainability implications of large-scale infrastructure projects. This is a core course for students within the Engineering Science Infrastructure option.

“Professor Heather MacLean’s initiatives in research, teaching and curriculum development are providing our students with the crucial competencies to meet future sustainability challenges” said Dean Cristina Amon. “I am grateful for her exceptional contributions and delighted that the CMHC has honoured her with this richly-deserved recognition.”

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