UBC Undergraduate Research

An investigation into Pavegen energy generating steps at the new Student Union Building Epp, Ryan; Bal, Gagan; Bhogal, Jitesh


The purpose of this report is to evaluate the feasibility of installing Pavegen energy generating steps in the second level entrance of the new Student Union Building (SUB) at the University of British Columbia (UBC). After researching academic papers, peer review articles, and consulting online public opinion, a triple bottom line assessment is performed in order to assess the potential short and long term social, environmental, and economic implications of the proposed project. Pavegen steps harvest kinetic energy from people walking on a slab, and convert it into electricity that can be stored or used for a variety of different applications. The fundamental component of a Pavegen slab is a piezoelectric material that generates electricity when it is compressed. Potential social impacts are predominately positive, among which include the strong possibility of creating awareness of sustainable energy usage. In addition, installing the steps would be the only known installation of piezoelectric slabs in the lower mainland, the technology would significantly stand out as unique for the local geographical area, and thus creating more social awareness of UBC’s efforts to reach its green initiative. Subsequently, there are no foreseeable significant environmental problems with installing the steps, as manufacturing is done with recycled materials, and transportation is done through lower carbon footprint methods. However, evaluating the installation cost shows that the steps are not economically viable, but at the same time, there is not enough information or in depth calculations to provide a sufficiently strong reason to rule out the installation of the steps based on issues of associated costs. Based on the triple bottom line assessment, it is recommended that the Pavegen steps be installed at the new SUB, as the potential positive social and environmental impacts outweigh the foreseeable costs associated with purchasing and maintaining the product. Disclaimer: “UBC SEEDS provides students with the opportunity to share the findings of their studies, as well as their opinions, conclusions and recommendations with the UBC community. The reader should bear in mind that this is a student project/report and is not an official document of UBC. Furthermore readers should bear in mind that these reports may not reflect the current status of activities at UBC. We urge you to contact the research persons mentioned in a report or the SEEDS Coordinator about the current status of the subject matter of a project/report.”

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