AGS AM 2009 poster prizes

The poster session with 126 posters highlighted a wide range of innovative solutions to questions of energy, mobility, water and urban agriculture, policy and governance, sustainable construction, education for sustainable development, and urban sustainability indicators. Six poster prizes and three runner-up prizes were awarded according to the six poster session themes. Most of the winners were PhD students. Click on the title to read the abstract.

Rising concerns about anthropogenic climate change have led to biofuels being promoted as a potential fossil fuel substitute, with additional policy implications for energy-security and rural development.

However, there is debate about biofuels’ potential negative impacts on land use with forest conversion as one much-publicized outcome.

This project aims at addressing the biofuel issue in a comprehensive way, via the application of the concepts and empirical methods of economics. Special attention is given to indirect effects of biofuel production on land use and forest conversion, as well as on social welfare. This includes, for example, the study of biofuels on related markets such as land, other agricultural commodities and labor. The proposed research aims to add to current knowledge, in which direct and partial effects are already relatively well-understood, but indirect impacts are missing. An example of such indirect effects is, for instance, the influence biofuel production may have in migration patterns, through a labor demand.

To fill this gap, analytical modeling will make use of the general equilibrium and micro-level approaches of land allocation. Also, the latest methods in econometrics will be applied to the problem.

The poster focuses on the first steps of the analytical modeling. More precisely, it presents a land allocation model, where two different classes of land can be allocated to three different and competitive land uses. As such, land can be used for forest, or for agriculture. Agricultural land is used to grow an energy crop and an agricultural commodity.

Methodology employed in this model is based on the basic principles of land economics and especially the Ricardian approach. Consequently, land allocation is determined by the land rents associated to the different competitive uses. Innovation comes from explicit modeling of competition between different land uses, including forest and an energy crop. This allows for a clear demonstration of the negative externality associated to forest conversion and the role played by biofuel production in this process.

The main objective of the model is to see how land allocation will change according to the variation of key parameters such as a shock on demand. For a number of reasons, it is reasonable to expect that demand for biofuels will increase, thus influencing land allocation. By modeling possible impacts not only relatively to other agricultural commodities but also on forest conversion, it is expected to derive insights on sustainability of biofuel production. Regarding this sustainability issue, a major interest will be the determination of biofuel production carbon balance.

The research findings are expected to be useful for optimal policy design both in current biofuel producer and consumer countries. Potential future producers may also benefit from policy implications derived from the research output.

(theme: Energy and Mobility in Urban Areas)

The majority of existing buildings follow a far from optimal scenario and are responsible for significant energy consumption. Buildings represent 35% of Portuguese primary energy consumption in 2006 and around 65% final energy in Lisbon city (Tirone, 2005). Expected to grow at around 5% yearly until 2020, building rehabilitation is a great opportunity for energy rehabilitation for a stock of 800 000 buildings needing medium to high interventions (AECOPS, 2008). Also the presently favorable conditions for rehabilitation programs focused on the energy component create a good opportunity to energy retrofitting.

This poster presents the combined efforts of three MIT-Portugal Program students working together to improve the energy efficiency of buildings, focusing on improving the existing building stock in Portugal.

One project develops a methodology that intends to include the energy component in rehabilitation schemes with an integrated and comprehensive analysis. The cross cut perspective of energy retrofitting, the detailed variables and data for a city scale case-study (Lisbon with four typical and representative building structures according to historic period/ construction techniques) and the vital audience proximity (energy services industry, municipality, sector players), gives a fair potential for applicability and replication of the methodology to a larger scale.

A second, closely related project focuses on using optimization techniques to quantitatively assess technology choices in the built environment. To minimize energy use and emissions in a cost effective manner, this project will match supply to demand by balancing distributed generation alternatives with energy efficiency measures. Design space exploration will determine a set of distributed generation and energy efficiency choices that can be effectively implemented in Portugal. This set will then be used as input to a multi-objective optimization to quantitatively compare the options.

For these tasks to be successful it is also necessary that procedures consider an accurate technical framework, where existing technologies and best case-studies can be considered in order to drive passive measures for retrofitting forward. One such opportunity lies in unconventional roof technologies, such as cool roofs, which have been shown to reduce a building’s cooling load by up to 28% (Simpson, 1997). The third project investigates these potential energy savings by developing a tool to be used to evaluate potential energy savings from roofs for Portuguese buildings. An energy balance is applied to each type of roof technology (currently a green roof, cool roof, concrete roof, and modified bitumen roof) with climatic parameters as inputs to find the heat flux through the roof. This tool will be used to assess which roof technology is most energy efficient in various Portuguese climates, which can then be used in the aforementioned rehabilitation schemes.


  • AECOPS, 2008. Portuguese Civil Construction Market – Challenges and Opportunities, Lisbon.(AECOPS – Portuguese Association of Public Works and Construction Corporations)
  • Simpson, J. & McPherson, E. 1997. “The effects of roof albedo modification on cooling loads of scale model residences in Tucson, Arizona.” Energy and Buildings 25, 127-137.
  • Tirone, L., Leite, Carla P., 2005. “Matriz Energética de Lisboa, Lisboa E-Nova” – Lisbon Municipal Energy and Environment Agency.

(theme: Sustainable Building and Construction)

Ecological footprints are an attempt to measure global ecological impact as a result of our demand for resources and generation of waste. Using the common unit of land area, Ecological Footprints represent a partial measure of the extent to which the planet, individual countries or cities are moving towards sustainable development, by comparing the demand for natural capital with the (finite) amount of natural capital available. Inccreasingly, Ecological Footprints are being used by local government as a vehicle to both measure and communicate environmental sustainability. Furthermore, this metric is increasingly being used to support policy making at the local scale.

A first approximation of Cape Town’s Ecological Footprint was undertaken by Gasson in the late 1990’s. His approach was to convert the metabolic inputs and outputs for the City of Cape Town into their respective productive and absorptive land areas. His results showed that the Ecological Footprint of Cape Town is approximately equal to the entire area of the Western Cape Province. Furthermore, the calculated Ecological Footprint is 50 times larger than the jurisdictional area and 160 times larger than the built footprint of Cape Town. The major contributors to the footrpint were calculated to be food followed by energy.

This work seeks to update the Ecological Footprint for the City of Cape Town. The approach taken here due to the lack of sufficient local consumption data is to use national data scaled or adjusted for the local population size and consumption behaviour. Thus the National Footprint Accounts available for South Africa are used and scaled to account for differences in consumption between Cape Town and South Africa. An attempt is made to generate a consumption-land use matrix and so unpack the metric into policy-relevant themes and, where possible, identify “hotspots” of unsustainable consumption. This is further investigated to determine what insights and possible policy recommendations can be given to policy makers at the City level on the basis of this metric.

(theme: Urban Environment and Natural Resources)

Despite advancement in technology and globalization, the world continues to experience global challenges that threaten to send the planet into a collective demise. Education is an important tool for addressing these challenges. Factors that contribute to gaps in education provision have been studied elaborately and documented in several policy papers and publications. Family poverty, effects of conflict, war, disease, violence and displacement; cultural practices; gender discrimination; inadequate infrastructure or educational facilities particularly in rural or isolated areas which lack adequate funding have been cited as the major challenges to sustainable education provision. Despite the studies, discussions and actions focusing on education for all, it appears as if educational gaps are widening. Majority of the youth, especially those from developing countries still have limited prospects of accessing and being sustained in tertiary education. Others graduate without gaining skills, knowledge, and values necessary for innovative community leadership. “In 2006, some 75 million children, 55% girls, were not in school, almost half in sub-Saharan Africa.”11 EFA Global Monitoring Report 2009 observes that governments are not giving priority to youth and adult learning needs in their education policies. Meeting the lifelong needs of youth and adults needs stronger political commitment and more funding. It will also require more clearly defined concepts and better data for effective monitoring.12)

This presentation is intended to explore non-monetary incentives that would spur the youth: students and school leavers, and the broader community to embrace sustainable development. This poster directs its focus to where sustainable action begins- the mind. The greatest enemy to innovation and youth empowerment is the mind that lacks motivation and commitment. Many young people, beneficiaries of increased school enrollment policies, are still disillusioned only harboring thoughts of the impossibilities to initiate change. They idle, urging their leaders and developed countries to prioritize on education provision, poverty eradication, and environmental stewardship. Due to superstition, pessimism and escapism they aren’t inspired to exploit the available opportunities to address our generational problems.

To such people, it is inadequate to attend more, well built or highly staffed schools; it isn’t fulfilling to get a distinction in exams. They desperately need inspiration through holistic, activity-oriented programs based on hands-on learning of life changing skills. These programs must entirely be contemporary socioeconomic enterprises like agriculture, art and business.

My major preoccupation is to develop a quality project that creates and establishes an attitude of how the youth can maximize in a positive way the potentials of real and perceived limitations to initiate change; instead of waiting for ‘favourable’ conditions. Hope Youth Information and Resource Development Center will be presented as a conceptual project prototype. The project utilises innovative learning approaches to alleviate poverty and instill positive thinking and sustainable action among the youth.

11) Education For All Global Monitoring Report 2009. “Overcoming Inequality: Why Government matters”.UNESCO, Oxford University Press, Page 15.
12) Education For All Global Monitoring Report 2009. UNESCO, Oxford University Press, Page 16.

(theme: Education for Sustainability / Student Activities for Sustainability)

The devastating earthquakes of 8.0M in Sichuan, Gansu and Shaanxi Provinces in China on 12 May 2008 shocked the world and caused near 100,000 lives with millions of homeless. After the Sichuan Earthquake, it has been estimated that over one million new houses need to be rebuilt, three million damaged houses renovated and over 50 cities and counties need to be resettled or rebuilt. (People’s Daily 10th of September 2008). The total budgets for reconstruction are over $150 Billion US Dollars approved by the Chinese Central Government in September 2008.

After such damages, the fast reconstructions often lack consideration of sustainable planning and construction, which has in many aspects a negative influence on the urban development for the years ahead. For example, after three months, many emergency shelters built for homeless people were already destroyed by the seasonal flood and landslides, and the people in the earthquake region are bearing huge psychological pressure. The most challenging aspects are how to develop an approach for sustainable buildings combined with local constructions rules and habits from the residents in mountain regions. Based on several intensive field investigations trips, our research objectives are to develop new qualitative and quantitative models and process-oriented approaches for sustainable building concepts for reconstruction and resettlement planning of urban disaster areas, such as the destroyed cities in the province of Sichuan. We propose a systemic way of approaching the issue of the reconstruction of cities from a sustainable development perspective. The framework differentiates the well-known tenets of environmental, social and economic sustainability in a systematic approach, raising questions about sustainability related to building codes as well as environmental, human, individual, social and cultural systems. Strategies for the sustainable buildings and local construction methods have been developed for the central and local government, in order to strengthen their regulatory, environmental and managerial capacity.

(theme: Sustainable Building and Construction)


Swamy, Savitha, Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and Environment, India: “Exploring means of sustaining green spaces in Bangalore, using the flagship image of butterflies”

Nam Yujin, The University of Tokyo, Japan: “Potential Map of Ground & Groundwater Energy Use for Sustainable Society”

Tilley, Elizabeth, Eawag, Switzerland: “Struvite recovery in Kathmandu: a business model for increased food security”