Make ÉTS Greener, one Step at a Time - By : Lorena Escandon,

Make ÉTS Greener, one Step at a Time

Lorena Escandon
Lorena Escandon Author profile
Lorena Escandon is a PhD candidate at ÉTS automated production engineering department in Montreal. She specializes in "Big Data" use to support creativity.

Sans titre-4Do you remember the project #17 “How to make stairs more attractive” during the 24 hours of innovation, an international innovation competition organized by École de technologie supérieure (ÉTS) in may 2014? This project was chosen by 23 teams. It will soon become a reality at ETS. By the way, the winning team from West Virginia University has worked on this project:

LogoDecliQ-webEvery day, electricity is spent supporting our activities, it powers our devices and lights our homes and workplaces, we are so dependent on it but take it for granted. At ÉTS, we have taken many initiatives to make the school greener (recycling bins, day without plastic bottles, solar panels), and at the student club DécliQ along with the Sustainable Development Fund, we want to encourage the community to save energy by taking the stairs.

There are stairs just on the side of each elevator, and none the less, we see queues every day for people going just one flight up (or worse, going one flight down!). So how do we achieve this change in perspective? DécliQ goes about things a little differently. We use creativity to solve problems using our collective intelligence. Several members of the club took part in this project and we began working on it. The first step was to analyze the use of the stairs and find out when and why people use the elevators and the stairs. We designed a survey and shared it with the community, getting 300 responses. The findings from this survey were interesting:

LEreason1 LEreason2

The student club determined that the best way to get new ideas for this project is to have a creative meeting, which was led by the then project leader, Lorena Escandón.

The session was held on February 12, 2014 from 16 to 19 hours Inno Luz the ideation platform. ETS community was invited. There were 17 participants and questions have also been published on social media to get ideas from the public.


After carefully reviewing the objectives, actors and “pain”, the problem was defined as: “Finding ways to motivate users to take the stairs instead.” Fifty three ideas were created that ranged from “improving the lighting” all the way to “creating a Futurama-like tube”. By grouping the ideas, the team detected that they could be summarized in several options:

  • Develop a mobile application to give directions in the buildings using the stairs (like GoogleMaps, but inside the school)
  • Edit the ambiance and sounds on the stairs (music, color)
  • Loyalty system for stair users (get points in exchange for free copies)
  • show clearly where the stairs are located  with a better signalisation
  • Develop a training Program by the sports center in collaboration with Décliq
  • Invite artists from the school and from outside to come and exhibit their works in the wall stairs

The team identified a set of filters to evaluate the ideas from the session. These filters would help select the best ideas to be presented to the university:

  • Impact in infrastructure: the solution should not impact significantly the existing infrastructure
  • Ergonomics: the solution must be tailored to the users and not the reverse
  • Habit: stair use must become a habit for users
  • Security: the solution does not increase the risk of danger to users

By the filters, the idea to “Clearly show where the stairs are located” takes better account of the criteria, and is the one we developed.

We believe porte 2that a simple display of the stairs location would not be enough to attract people, but it is also necessary to make them visible, especially since almost all stairs are hidden behind fire-breaking doors.

This idea therefore posed a new challenge: how to show stairs without reducing the security provided by the doors. To try to resolve this contradiction, the students have used TRIZ contradiction matrix.

porte 1

The idea evolved and was combined with another proposed solution “to use the stairs as a way to direct people inside the building”. We decided that the best way to implement this idea would be to add color and a code to each stair to create a culture of location using the stairs. For example: “if you want to go to the Mechanics Department, you take the blue stairs up to the second floor and turn right”.

With the proposed solution, two problems are solved with one change: it will be easier for students to get directions, and they will be prompted to take the stairs more frequently.

Three options were selected to be presented at the Administration for a potential implementation:

  1. Clearly show where the stairs are located (better signalisation)
  2. Training Program developed by the sports center in collaboration with Décliq
  3. Invite artists from the school and from outside to come and exhibit their works in the hall stairs

École de l’innovation citoyenne [School of citizen innovation] and the Bureau de développement durable from ÉTS [Office of Sustainable Development] support the project.

Lorena Escandon

Author's profile

Lorena Escandon is a PhD candidate at ÉTS automated production engineering department in Montreal. She specializes in "Big Data" use to support creativity.

Program : Automated Manufacturing Engineering 

Research chair : Canada Research Chair in Biomaterial and Endovascular Implants 

Research laboratories : NUMERIX – Organizational Engineering Research Laboratory for the Digital Enterprise 

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