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McGill research into de-carbonizing buildings attracts $19 M in support

Led by researchers from the Peter Guo-hua Fu School of Architecture, the project aims to develop regional, carbon-negative approaches to construction.

McGill University’s Building Architecture Research Node (BARN) project was awarded over $7.5 million through the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) Innovation Fund (IF). With additional funds from the Government of Quebec, BARN will receive more than $19 million in research support.

Conceptual design rendering of BARN exterior. Courtesy of mcgill.ca.

Working with an interdisciplinary team of McGill researchers, as well as with private and public sector partners, BARN co-leads Profs. Michael Jemtrud, Kiel Moe, and Salmaan Craig (Peter Guo-hua Fu School of Architecture) aim to develop regional, carbon-negative approaches to construction, linking sustainable forestry with timber innovations. 

With the goal of producing long-lived and resilient architecture, the BARN team will explore ways to “decarbonize” buildings and environments by making them less carbon-intensive to operate and by reducing the amount of carbon embodied in building materials, components, assemblies, buildings and communities. 

The showcase BARN building, to be located on McGill’s Macdonald campus, will include laboratories for an interdisciplinary team of experts in energy, ecology, landscape, forestry, architecture and construction.

The building will incorporate a state-of-the-art workshop for processing timber, and space for assembling and testing innovative building technologies at full scale. The Mac campus site will also enable the team to use wood harvested sustainably from the Morgan Arboretum to be processed and used in the design and construction of novel buildings as part of the facility’s “research-develop-demonstrate workflow,” says Jemtrud. 

Jemtrud adds that the researchers will focus on two specific questions as they embark on the project: “How can we harvest and design with wood to increase the carbon sequestration from forests? And, how can we drastically cut greenhouse emissions in designing and constructing a resilient built environment?” 

The BARN project is among the nine McGill research projects which, combined, received nearly $45 million in funding through this CFI-IF competition. The Province of Quebec and other partners are contributing additional funds to the projects. Collectively, the nine McGill-led projects represent a total research infrastructure investment of $110 million to McGill

The large, interdisciplinary team capitalizes on the vast intellectual resources in the School of Architecture and in other Faculties, and will train the next generation of professionals in carbon-neutral and climate-resilient design.   

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