CivicLabTO Academic Summit focusing on planning, transit, housing, climate change

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Free virtual event today and tomorrow

Ontario Construction News staff writer

Toronto is hosting the CivicLabTO Academic Summit today and tomorrow (Nov. 23 and 24) with York University, University of Toronto, OCAD University, Ryerson University, Humber College, Seneca, George Brown College and Centennial College. Registration is free.

More than 60 presenters will participate in student-led arts and cultural programing that the city says will “lead to stronger public policy in the ever-changing urban environment with a focus on greater equity and inclusion.

“We know that our success in affecting the kind of systemic changes necessary to build inclusive, resilient and safe communities relies on our ability to collaborate with government, community organizations, the private sector and other institutions of higher education,” said Rhonda Lenton, president and vice-chancellor, York University.

“York has a lot to contribute to these partnerships – including significant expertise in the fields of inequality, climate change, the environment, homelessness, and health and health governance.”

Sessions will focus on public health; planning and adapting public space; stronger, safer, more just communities; arts, culture and recovery; transit and transportation; technology, innovation and equity; housing and health; climate change and green recovery; and economic resiliency.

A panel discussion on housing and health is scheduled for Wednesday morning. Speakers will discuss how the pandemic has exacerbated pre-existing challenges in Toronto’s housing and homeless systems and ideas to promote a more equitable and sustainable recovery, particularly for vulnerable and marginalized people. They will also discuss how housing and health are inextricably linked.

Speakers include architect Susan Speigel, president of the Ontario Association of Architects (OAA). Her career has spanned more than 30 years and five cities. As a young graduate she and four other designers launched an all-women firm, Villa Villa.  Since then, her work has evolved through various iterations, including a brief foray into the tech world.

Susan Speigel Architect Inc. (SSA), focused on architecture, landscape, and urbanistic public realm projects for non-profit organizations, the public housing sector, and private residences.

She is also an educator at the Institute Without Boundaries through George Brown College School of Design, where she works at the intersections of architecture, landscape architecture, urbanism, activism, community, ecology, and academia.

The panel discussion on Climate Change and Green Recovery will explore the net zero future for the city, including a radical transformation in buildings, transportation and waste requiring labour and education training.

Speakers include:

  • rosannashahirRosanna Chowdhury, Faculty of Environmental and Urban Change’s Experiential Education (EE) Coordinator and Equity Committee Co-Chair at York University.
  • Stewart Dutfield, acting manager, public energy initiatives, existing buildings, environment and energy, City of Toronto
  • Shahriar Ghahremanian, professor, Humber College, specializes in building, industrial and transportation energy systems, sustainability, climate change and advanced fluid dynamics. Dr. Shahriar leads projects to save energy cost, to provide a comfortable indoor environment for people and to save our planet, Earth.
  • Cheryl Teelucksingh, professor of sociology at Ryerson University has researched the relationship between environmental justice in Canada and concerns for social inequality.

Toronto Mayor John Tory says the two-day virtual summit will look at city building in a way that has never been done before.

“Our city is home to world-class education institutions who have played a key role in building up our city. This academic summit is one way in which we are working together to find solutions on challenges faced by our city.”


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