Societal & Environmental Systems

Societal and environmental systems is the design and analysis of the interconnected networks of infrastructure, resources, and social dynamics that promote sustainability and well-being. This encompasses the consideration of environmental impact, resilience, and societal needs when developing solutions, ensuring responsible and holistic engineering practices. 


Development of an Intercity Long-Distance Travel Origin Destination Matrix for Canada

Canada’s national passenger transportation system is comprised of air and ground modes. Sustainability has motivated the electrification of ground modes but the means to attain green air travel are still debated. Future air service will include improved aircraft, new fuels, e-flight, offsets and strong ground-air integration. To create future scenarios and estimate associated emissions and economic impacts, the most basic data is still lacking: from where, and to where, do people need and want to travel. This project fills the most critical data gap for future scenario simulations by using the National Travel Survey of Canada to create a national origin-destination matrix. This project is funded through WISA and facilitates sustainable air travel by providing insights into the overall patterns of interregional travel demand.

Project by Dr. Lisa Aultman-Hall

Emergent Encounters Action Project

The Emergent Encounters Action Project aims to provide time and space for students, faculty, staff, alumni, and community members at UW to connect and build relationships around social justice issues. Funded through a UW LITE grant, the project’s first cycle saw a variety of alternative pedagogical approaches being used to engage participants in a series of five workshops around the themes of Deep Listening, Encounter, Relationship, Small Actions, and Repair. Transdisciplinary by design, each session saw a mix of art, storytelling, conversation, and skill development that was aimed at nourishing the mycorrhizal networks that support social justice movements. This work was centred around challenging the cis-hetero-patriarchal norms of the University and the western capitalist and neoliberal values that make a relational way of being seem hard to realize within the dominant culture in North America. Major influences on the project include Subcomandante Marcos, Cindy Milstein, adrienne maree brown, William Woodworth, and Fred Moten, among many others.

Enhancements to Explicit Stochastic Reservoir Operation Optimization Method

The Fletcher-Ponnambalam (FP) method is an explicit stochastic optimization method for design and operations management of real-world storage systems including surface water reservoir and groundwater management problems. The FP method faces no curse of dimensionality and no need for scenario generation. The paper introduces a novel implementation for the FP method, named FP-2022 here for clarity, by removing the need for nonlinear constraints and by decreasing the number of decision variables to just one third of its original value, significantly reducing solving time (~27 times faster than the original formulation).

Project by Dr. Kumaraswamy Ponnambalam, Dr S. Jamshid Mousavi, Dr. Alcigeimes B. Celeste, Dr. Ximing Cai


Estimating aviation vs passenger vehicle greenhouse gas emissions for surveyed intercity trips

Transportation is a large contributor to greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). The proportion of passenger distance for long-distance, intercity travel is estimated to be 30% of the total for air, on-road passenger vehicle, rail, and other modes. Methods for estimating and mitigating these emissions have received limited focus in travel modeling. Air travel carbon calculators that estimate more disaggregate emissions for passenger aviation for specific real-world trips are needed. Our work facilitates assessment of when it is more efficient to drive or fly in one’s personal context by accounting for airport operations, ground side equipment, airport access/egress, and routing which embodies different numbers of take-offs, landings, and taxiing operations. Our future work will bring these models into application to design optimum system-wide analysis and modeling to address the balance of modes between air and ground for long-distance travel.


Project by Dr. Lisa Aultman-Hall

Joint Flood Risks in the Grand River Watershed

Efficient flood risk management strategies necessitate a holistic approach to evaluating flood vulnerabilities and risks. Catastrophic losses can occur when the peak flow values in the rivers in a basin coincide. Therefore, estimating the joint flood risks in a region is vital, especially when frequent occurrences of extreme events are experienced. This study focuses on estimating the joint flood risks due to river flow extremes in the Grand River watershed in Canada.

Project by Dr. Kumaraswamy Ponnambalam, Dr. Poornima Unnikrishnan, Dr. Nirupama Agrawal, Dr. Fakhri Karray

Grand River Watershed

Optimal Management of a Virtual Power Plant Consisting of Renewable Energy Resources using Optimization and AI

Virtual power plants (VPPs) are introduced as a promising solution to make the most out of renewable resources by aggregating them as a single entity. On the other hand, VPP’s optimal management depends on its accuracy in modelling stochastic parameters in the VPP body. In this regard, an efficient approach for a VPP is a method that can overcome these intermittent resources. In this paper, a comprehensive study has been investigated for the optimal management of a VPP by modeling different resources—RESs, energy storages, EVs, and distributed generations. In addition, a method based on bi‑directional long short‑term memory networks is investigated for forecasting various stochastic parameters, wind speed, electricity price, load demand, and EVs’ behaviour.

Energy system

Project by Dr. Kumaraswamy Ponnambalam, Dr Ali Ahmadian, Dr Ali Almansoori, Dr Ali Elkamel