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The Engineering alumni behind OTI Lumionics are creating mega-efficient lighting, one of the many methods that could be used to make cities more sustainable. (L–R) Zhibin Wang (MSE PhD 1T2), Michael Helander (EngSci 0T7, MSE PhD 1T2), Michael Augustinavicius (ECE 7T6) and Ray Kwa (EngSci 0T0 + PEY) (Photo: Roberta Baker).
Liat Margolis

With the election just a week away, voter decisions are coming down to the wire: when it comes time to actually cast their ballot, will the choice they make help build a better Toronto?

The latest in U of T News’ mini-series of podcasts tackles the question of sustainability to offers voters—and anyone interested in the future of urban issues—an idea of what global cities like Toronto could look like just a few years from now.

Previous episodes dug into the U of T research and business startups pushing boundaries on the future of traffic and transit.

The third in this four-part series expands focus to tackle the future of Toronto’s economy, environment and transportation on a larger scale.

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(Click the down-pointing arrow button in the player to download episode and transfer to your listening device. Transcript available here.)


Part One: What do green roofs have to do with emergency management?

Assistant Professor Liat Margolis’ research is all about optimizing “green roofs”—the vegetation on tops of large city buildings that became mandatory in Toronto a few years ago.

It might seem like these patches of grass and greenery could do little more than offer condo-dwellers a scenic spot to view the CN Tower. But in this interview, Margolis describes their power to affect flood relief, energy consumption and the very ecology of the city.

Margolis shares a few early findings from research she and her colleagues are doing with their own test versions of green roofs on the roof of the Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design.

Part Two: Transit as a ‘revelation’ for citizens

Richard Sommer is dean of the Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design. Last episode, he shared a vision of richly-designed transit hubs in the outer areas of the GTA that would integrate shopping, learning and possibly even gardening into train platform design. (Find the transit episode here)

In this episode, Sommer explains the greater implications for a city recognizing transit as something more than just a way of getting citizens from one point to another.

He offers a few thoughts on how a more wholistic transit philosophy could contribute to an enlightened lifestyle for its users.

Part Three: Leaving Toronto’s old economy behind

Professor David Wolfe thinks a lot about Toronto’s future: the jobs, companies, costs and revenues that will drive the city’s success—or lack of it—in a continually changing world.

The political science professor, who teaches at U of T’s Mississauga campus as well as at the Munk School of Global Affairs, recently received a $2.9 million grant to study Canada’s growing digital economy.

In this interview, he shares his opinion of what changes Toronto needs to make – and fast – if it stands a chance of developing a sustainable economy. And it may involve a difficult reimagining of the city’s relationship to the region around it.

Wolfe also discusses the importance of entrepreneurship supports and startup accelerators like the ones offered at the University of Toronto.

One sustainability-focused company developed through U of T’s Creative Destruction Lab accelerator is OTI Lumionics. Engineering alumnus and co-founder Michael Helander (EngSci 0T7, MSE PhD 1T2) developed a new – and considerably more affordable – way to manufacture organic LED lighting alongside then-PhD student Zhibin Wang (MSE PhD 1T2) and their supervisor Professor Zheng-Hong Lu (MSE). The technology offers great potential for applications in archtecture, interior design and more. (Read more about OTI Lumionics)

The company recently launched the world’s first consumer-ready OLED lamp, the aerelight, to demonstrate just one of the many ways this sustainable material may soon be lighting our cities. (Read more about aerelight)

Read more about building successful cities at U of T.

This podcast features music made available on the Free Music Archive from Daytripper13, Tha Custodian of Records, Jazzafari and Cosmic Analog Ensemble.

Media Contact

Fahad Pinto
Communications & Media Relations Strategist