Cross-school collaborative research on biochar for green infrastructure

The BCIT School of Construction and the Environment (SoCE) Green Value Strategies in Development Applied Research Endowment funded a cross-school collaborative research project on the use of a sustainable filtration material called biochar to remove chemical contaminant from stormwater to improve water quality in creeks and rivers. The long term goal is to incorporate biochar into green infrastructures like rain gardens which can be installed on BCIT Burnaby Campus to improve the water quality in Guichon Creek.

This multi-phase research project involves faculty and students from SoCE’s Civil Engineering and Ecological Restoration programs, School of Energy’s Chemical and Environmental Technology program, and the School of Computing and Academic Studies’ Chemistry program. The first phase of the project involved 16 students: two Ecological Restoration Master of Science research students co-supervised by Anayansi Cohen-Fernandez, Colleen Chan, and Ken Ashley; two Civil Engineering research students supervised by Colleen Chan; and, four groups of 3 students from Chemical and Environmental Technology supervised by Deirdre Lynch and Amir Dehkhoda.

The projects involved testing the response of native plants to various soil/biochar mixes to be used in rain gardens, the hydraulic properties of biochar/soil mixtures in rain gardens, the comparison of biochar with different physico-chemical characteristics in chemical contaminants removal efficacy, and the potential leaching of contaminants from spent biochar after use. All of the experimental work was supported by Kevin Soulsbury from Chemistry who helped students with chemical analysis.

This past academic term was the first year of the biochar collaborative project. Additional activities funded by the Green Values Strategies fund will continue over the summer with two Ecological Restoration Master of Science students, and also in January 2021 involving Civil Engineering and Chemical and Environmental Technology students. Although there was disruption to the experimental plans due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the collaborative research project is showing promise as it continues to the next phase. Congratulations to everyone involved in this project that will benefit the environment.

The Advancing Green Value Strategies in Development Fund is a $1.2 million dollar applied research endowment that supports the School of Construction and the Environment research projects in sustainability through the generous donations in part by the Real Estate Foundation of BC and BC Housing.


1 thought on “Cross-school collaborative research on biochar for green infrastructure”

  1. This project demonstrates the vision for campuses as a living lab of sustainability by brining students across several disciplines together to solve a challenge that is relevant to advancing sustainability at BCIT and around the world. Kudos to the School of Construction and the Environment for leadership in collaborative studies and for building capacity through the “Advancing Green Value Strategies in Development Fund” to perpetually support innovation.


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