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Civil engineering professor Rajeev RuparathnaCivil engineering professor Rajeev Ruparathna is leading a research team exploring the social and environmental impacts of masonry construction.

Engineering prof to explore social and environmental impacts of masonry construction

From energy use to construction waste, there is a lot to consider when designing a building.

How effectively can the materials regulate temperature fluctuations and what’s their effect on the people utilizing the facility? Can the building withstand extreme weather? A University of Windsor engineering professor is examining how masonry construction adds up.

Funded by Mitacs in partnership with Masonry Works, Rajeev Ruparathna is leading a three-year project that will investigate the resiliency, economic feasibility, and social and environmental impacts of masonry construction.

“The aim is to develop much-needed knowledge on the life-cycle performance of masonry construction in Canada,” Dr. Ruparathna says.

To holistically address environmental issues associated with the building environment, the civil engineering professor says it’s essential to consider all phases of a building’s life cycle.

“This includes everything from raw material extraction and conversion to manufacturing and distribution through use, re-use, recycling and disposal.”

The $105,000 project will support seven graduate students who will collect a substantial amount of performance data from low and mid-rise Industrial, Commercial, and Institutional building construction in Canada by visiting sites and documenting the condition and deterioration of interior and exterior masonry walls. The team will create a data set for industry and use mathematical modeling to offer advice on maintenance and replacement schedules.

Globally, building construction is responsible for one-third of greenhouse gas emissions, and one-third of landfill waste comes from their demolition, Ruparathna adds.

“Achieving healthy and resilient buildings through lifecycle thinking is a new paradigm in the building industry,” he says. “People are getting more information about what they are consuming, which helps them make more informed decisions.”

Doing so can reduce hazards created by extreme weather events, improve indoor air quality, and provide social, environmental and health benefits, says Ruparathna.

He expects the research to lead to breakthroughs in the next generation of building construction techniques, policies, new industry standards, and operational management strategies.

“Such progress can enhance Canada’s position as a global leader in healthy and resilient building construction.”

Mark Hagel, director of engineering for the Alberta Masonry Council, is contributing to the project by providing data to Ruparathna’s team.

—Kristie Pearce