Liat Margolis researches 'green roofs' on top of the Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design (photo by Curtis Puncher)

U of T Cities podcast episode three: sustainable cities

Experts describe Toronto's future buildings, transit and economy

With the election just a week away, voter decisions are coming down to the wire: when it comes time to actually cast their ballot, will the choice they make help build a better Toronto?

The latest in U of T News' mini-series of podcasts tackles the question of sustainability to offers voters – and anyone interested in the future of urban issues – an idea of what global cities like Toronto could look like just a few years from now.

Previous episodes dug into the U of T research and business startups pushing boundaries on the future of traffic and transit. (Find traffic episode here; find transit episode here).

The third in this four-part series expands focus to tackle the future of Toronto's economy, environment and transportation on a larger scale.

(Click the down-pointing arrow button in the player to download episode and transfer to your listening device. Transcript available here. Now available on iTunes.)


Assistant Professor Liat Margolis' research is all about optimizing "green roofs" the vegetation on tops of large city buildings that became mandatory in Toronto a few years ago.

It might seem like these patches of grass and greenery could do little more than offer condo-dwellers a scenic spot to view the CN Tower. But in this interview, Margolis describes their power to affect flood relief, energy consumption and the very ecology of the city.

Margolis shares a few early findings from research she and her colleagues are doing with their own test versions of green roofs on the roof of the Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design.


Dean Richard Sommer in his officeRichard Sommer is dean of the Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design. Last episode, he shared a vision of richly-designed transit hubs in the outer areas of the GTA that would integrate shopping, learning and possibly even gardening into train platform design. (Find the transit episode here)

In this episode, Sommer explains the greater implications for a city recognizing transit as something more than just a way of getting citizens from one point to another.

He offers a few thoughts on how a more wholistic transit philosophy could contribute to an enlightened lifestyle for its users.


Professor David Wolfe thinks a lot about Toronto's future: the jobs, companies, costs and revenues that will drive the city's success or lack of it in a continually changing world.

The political science professor, who teaches at U of T's Mississauga campus as well as at the Munk School of Global Affairs, recently received a $2.9 million grant to study Canada's growing digital economy. (Read more about Wolfe's research here)

In this interview, he shares his opinion of what changes Toronto needs to make and fast if it stands a chance of developing a sustainable economy. And it may involve a difficult reimagining of the city's relationship to the region around it.
Wolfe also discusses the importance of entrepreneurship supports and startup accelerators like the ones offered at the University of Toronto. (Read more about entrepreneurship at U of T)

photo of three aerelight lamps

One sustainability-focused company developed through U of T's Creative Destruction Lab accelerator in addition to other University of Toronto supports is OTI Lumionics. (Read more about OTI Lumionics)

They've developed a new and considerably more affordable way to manufacture organic LED lighting, a material which offers great potential for applications in archtecture, interior design and more.

The company recently launched the world's first consumer-ready OLED lamp, the aerelight, to demonstrate just one of the many ways this sustainable material may soon be lighting our cities. (Read more about aerelight)

Read more about building successful cities at U of T.

This podcast features music made available on the Free Music Archive from Daytripper13, Tha Custodian of Records, Jazzafari and Cosmic Analog Ensemble.

Transcript available. 

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