The new Civil Engineering program at York will initially focus on achieving excellence in the following three main research areas:

Infrastructure Lifecycle Assessment, Costing and Rehabilitation

The main focus of this area of research excellence will be on above-ground infrastructure, such as roads, bridges, buildings, etc. Late on, we will also include buried infrastructure such as water distribution networks, sewers, commuter tunnels, etc. Research efforts will be devoted to understanding and developing business economics of infrastructure rehabilitation and replacement, include lifecycle assessment and costing. Technological breakthroughs in terms of assessing remaining serviceable life of a structure as well as retrofitting and rehabilitation of aging infrastructure will be sought. Scientific explorations into the effects of environmental and user-controlled factors on various construction materials (e.g. concrete, steel, wood, masonry, etc.) will also be undertaken.

Designing for Climate-change-driven Extreme Loading Events

While the debate on whether global warming is real or not goes on, there are clear indications of shifts in climatic patterns all over the world. Polar ice areas have now shrunk to unprecedented levels and we are now experiencing extreme precipitation and extreme drought events more frequently and this is taking a toll on civil infrastructure. Tornadoes, typhoons and hurricanes are getting more frequent and more powerful. Coastal structures, such as harbours, levees, etc, are increasingly being subjected to loads in excess of their design loads. Clearly, there is a need to assess the effect of extreme loading events on civil infrastructure. Another aspect of this research area of excellence is studying the response of structures subjected to more frequent seismic and wave loading (e.g. in case of a tsunami). One major effect of melting polar ice is the thawing of permafrost that surrounds the polar region, which is causing major serviceability issues in the northern communities. Given that most of new development in Canada’s energy and resource sectors is taking place in these northern communities, it has become very important to study the behaviour of thawing permafrost and its effect on infrastructure, such as buildings, highways and railroads.

Sustainable Development

Given that world’s human population is increasing at an unsustainable rate, the need for sustainable development is more critical than ever. This research excellence area will focus on developing technologies for construction using recycled and renewable materials. Examples of such materials include construction rubble, recycled asphalt pavement, shredded tires, plant fibres (e.g. flax, hemp, jute, coconut coir, etc). Another key focus area will be construction over marginal-quality land such closed municipal landfills and degrading permafrost. Research into post-mining rehabilitation of landscape (e.g. innovative cover systems, rapid consolidation of mine tailings, etc) will also be undertaken. Field-based research will also be undertaken on developing effective strategies for rejuvenation of groundwater and surface water resources using micro- and meso-scale topographical alterations (e.g. by constructing micro dams out of naturally-available materials).