Wolfson Living Lab Project #1 - "Waste to Art" - Conducted by Wolfson alumni, Mr. Santiago Sottil.



The Wolfson Living Lab encourages and supports projects that have an actionable or demonstrable ‘green’ impact to the College estate, community, or its wider network.

                                                                                         Page contents

      Active Projects  |  Completed Projects  |  Full Details  |  Wolfson Living Lab Award  |  Resources & Funding

Sustainability and Conservation Hub logo

Wolfson Living Lab Details

All Wolfson Living Lab projects benefit from mentorship and support from the Sustainability & Conservation (S&C) Hub, with approved projects entitled to receive a £50 cash prize. Additional banded funds of £100, £250 or £500 are available for projects that require specific resources.

Examples of Living Lab project areas might include, but aren't limited to:

  • Humanities through a ‘green’ lens
  • Sociology
  • Sustainable Living
  • Art Projects
  • Wolfson Utilities Research (heating, lighting, electricity)
  • Content Creation
  • Policy
  • Recycling and Food
  • Mental Health
  • Biodiversity
  • The Wolfson estate & gardens
  • Technological Solutions
  • Economics
  • Entrepreneurialism
  • etc… these are a guide only. Compelling ideas welcome! 

Submissions are welcome from individuals or groups from any member of Wolfson College past or present. Students and Fellows are particularly encouraged to apply and can be linked to academic or professional study if desired. Non-Wolfson affiliated individuals may apply as part of a group where at least one Wolfson member is leading or co-leading the project. All submissions must be made in consultation with the S&C Hub. Final approval and the official start of a Living Lab project comes from the College’s Domestic Bursar.

To start the submission process, fill out this submission form as best you can and email to: sc-hub@wolfson.cam.ac.uk, or contact us directly to discuss your idea in the first instance.

Note: The £50 cash prize is made without any deduction for tax, and it is the recipient’s responsibility to report them if appropriate.

Note: Banded funds are provided as expenses. If you're not able to provide the expenses yourself upfront, please let us know on your form and we can provide you an Expenses Advance Claim Form.



Wolfson College Living Lab Award

The Wolfson College Living Lab Award is a mark of excellence that recognises the training and outcomes of a Living Lab project. Awards are made on successful completion of a project. Criteria for completion will be decided on a case-by-case basis in discussion with the Sustainability & Conservation Hub. Examples of completion might be being accepted and presenting at the annual Wolfson Research Event, hosting an exhibition or formal closure event, completing a piece of academic work using your Living Lab project, or producing a non-academic project report for the Sustainability & Conservation Hub that details the work, outcomes, or recommendations.

Where a completion criterion is not met or changes are made during a project (in agreement with the S&C Hub), a Wolfson College Living Lab Award can still be received. In these cases, Awards will be decided on a case-by-case basis by the S&C Hub Conveners group where ‘deemed a success’.

All projects will be asked to fill out a short Wolfson S&C Stories submission on completion of the project to disseminate the work, outcomes, and impacts. All S&C Stories are eventually printed and recorded into the S&C Hub Library Collection at the Wolfson Library. This is so we can celebrate your projects achievements and formally acknowledge your work into the collective Wolfson memory for years to come!


Active Projects

Academic Year 2022-2023

All projects completed


Academic Year 2021-2022
#4 Waste at Wolfson: Understanding How Waste Management Factors into the Net Zero Agenda at Wolfson College - Sachi Shah


Wolfson Living Lab Project #4 - Waste at Wolfson - is being conducted by Wolfson student, Ms. Sachi Shah.


  1. Understand whether hyper-local (College level) circularity and recycling is more likely to reduce emissions than exporting/delivering waste to large processors.
  2. Understand whether segregation at source is being effectively undertaken at Wolfson and the extent of it bearing on recyclability.
  3. Contribute to and/or develop a collaborative knowledge-sharing platform with other waste management initiatives and institutions at the University.
  4. Pilot certain circularity-based systems at Wolfson College.


  1. Recognise the role of waste in producing carbon emissions.
  2. Integrate waste management into Wolfson College via the University’s Net Zero strategy as a steer.
  3. Begin to develop a circular system within Wolfson College
#5 Wolfson goes Climate Positive - Simon Mathis


Wolfson Living Lab Project #5 - Wolfson goes Climate Positive - is being conducted by Wolfson student, Mr Simon Mathis.

The Author:

  • Simon Mathis is a PhD student at Wolfson College, based in the AI4ER CDT (Centre for Doctoral Training in Artificial Intelligence for the study of Environmental Risk).

Project Background:

  • Living sustainably, in harmony with our planet’s resources, forms part of the fabric of Wolfson’s values, as demonstrated through discussions from COP26 at Wolfson, as well as the Wolfson Strategic Plan. While important first steps towards assessing the College’s greenhouse gas (GHG) footprint have been made, there is no clear understanding, articulated target or roadmap on how to get there. The goal of this Living Lab project is to address these issues and illuminate a development pathway for Wolfson to go beyond carbon neutrality and become the first climate-positive College in Cambridge.


  1. establish a clear view of College’s current carbon emissions.
  2. inform discussions at the College leadership level with the inputs from the assessment.
  3. prototype a draft Climate Roadmap


  1. production of a detailed Carbon Accounting assessment.
  2. formulation of an ambitious, science-based carbon target to carbon-neutrality as a minimum.
  3. provide an accountable and evidence-based route for Wolfson College to achieve its devised carbon targets.


Academic Year 2020-2021

All projects completed



Completed Projects

Academic Year 2022-2023
#6 Intelligent energy management to reduce costs and emissions at Wolfson College - Alexander Allen

Wolfson Living Lab Project #6 - Intelligent energy management to reduce costs and emissions at Wolfson College - is being led by Wolfson student, Alexander Allen and supported by former Cambridge student, Yigit Akar. The team recently co-founded xWatts – a venture capital backed start-up developing energy optimisation software. 

The Authors:

  • Alexander Allen is a control systems engineer with a master’s degree in Computer Science and 8-years' software development experience in the energy sector. Alexander is currently a part-time postgraduate student at Wolfson College (University of Cambridge), where he is completing research on low carbon energy systems and operational energy in the built environment. Prior to this he worked for GE Renewable Energy, leading large-scale HVDC projects in Asia, North and South America.
  • Yigit Akar is electronics engineer with an MBA (University of Cambridge), Six-Sigma Black Belt and renewable energy specialist. He was a project manager for the European energy company EnBW, leading large-scale wind/solar power plant projects and digital energy solutions. He also worked with the Circular Economy Centre in CJBS to develop strategies for implementation of Circular Economy practices in industrial clients’ operations by utilizing Internet-of-Things (IoT) technologies and cybersecurity practices. 

Project Background:

  • In the past year, UK energy costs have doubled, creating significant financial challenges for large scale commercial estates and academic institutions. The primary energy uses in these buildings are for services such as heating, ventilation, cooling, lighting and electrical appliances. The goal of this living lab project is to connect to these systems, using xWatts’ software [1], to better understand energy consumption patterns at Wolfson College, identify occupant flexibility, and demonstrate real impact through reduced energy consumption (kWh), costs (£) and emissions (CO2e).

[1] xWatts’ software evaluates building energy consumption data (flexibility constraints and occupancy), against energy market data and environmental conditions to predict optimal solutions to reduce energy consumption whilst maintaining functional and comfortable environments for building occupants. 


  1. Use xWatts software to better understand energy consumption patterns and identify occupant flexibility to modify energy consumption at Wolfson College.
  2. Demonstrate real impact through reduced energy consumption, costs and emissions.


  1. Wolfson College to receive recommendations (execution plan) to modify energy consumption based on flexibility constraints and occupancy data, energy market data and environmental conditions. 
  2. Realised reduction in energy consumption (kWh), energy costs (£) and emissions (CO2e).


Academic Year 2021-2022
 #3 Clean Campuses: applying novel zinc oxide coatings for sustainable education infrastructures - Nicholas Jose


Wolfson Living Lab Project #3 - Clean Campuses - is being conducted by Wolfson alumnus, Dr Nicholas Jose.

To leave feedback on Clean Campuses, you can fill out Nick's survey.

The informational poster for display for Nick's project
Nick's informational poster that displayed the coatings for sampling in the hexagonal areas.

The Author:

  • Dr Jose was awarded his doctorate in Chemical Engineering at the University of Cambridge in 2019, before becoming the founder and CEO of his own company Accelerated Materials Ltd. Nick's project therefore looks at the application of novel zinc oxide coatings for more sustainable education infrastructures.
  • Read a short Wolfson College interview with Nick here.

Project Background:

  • Microbes are a major form of contamination and thrive in damp environments. Insufficient cleaning of these microbes can result in building decay and discolouration and can be a major health hazard. Water resources and toxic cleaning materials and chemicals can introduce local environmental damage. However, Cambridge CARES and the Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology have created a form of zinc oxide that is non-toxic, low cost and prevents the growth of bacteria, mould and fungi. Early research indicates that the introduction of this material into household products such as paints could reduce the need for intensive cleaning, and as a result, reduce waste.


  • To conduct a small case study on the Wolfson estate, testing the ability of these materials to provide educational campuses such as Wolfson a cleaner and more sustainable environment.


  1. The development of knowledge on how the zinc oxide materials perform in a real-world setting.
  2. Dissemination of results to Wolfson College and the public.
  3. Analysis of the commercial potential of the materials in this particular application.

For more pictures and further details, see Accelerated Materials project webpage.


April 2022

  • Nicholas: "So far in the project, we have selected potential testing sites near the dining hall and exterior walls and pillars with the college and established a collaboration with Crown Paints to make a special interior formulation for Wolfson College, along with a testing plan. The sites we identified are quite public and will be designed in a way to showcase the project to the Wolfson community. We had a few delays in preparing a sample for Crown Paints due to laboratory disruptions, but we have now provided them with a sample to make a paint with. Once this is made we'll do a few laboratory tests to validate its performance and safety, and then request a time with the College to apply the paint to the indoor test sites."

June 2022

  • Nicholas: "We have received paint samples from Crown Paints and have tested them. All showed good antimicrobial activity against E. Coli. Our zinc oxide paint contained a higher viscosity, which required some thinning before application. In our first experiment with Wolfson we are mounting a poster on 28 June with various paint samples in a high traffic area. The painted hexagons of the poster will be swabbed regularly to quantify microbial content in our labs. Throughout the College we will also be putting paint samples (look out for the hexagons!) and gauging their effectiveness over time. We are especially interested in public interactions with the work, and are making available on our website a poll for those interested to express their opinions on the project."

July 2022

  • S&C Hub: The coatings are now in place and on display at Wolfson from July - December 2022 inclusive, sampled every month! They can currently be found at the bottom of the stairs to the Dining Hall as shown below, opposite the Karen Sparks Jones room, with more locations potentially being added October - December 2022.

March 2023

  • Nicholas: "Educational institutions require significant upkeep to prevent deterioration, health hazards and retain aesthetic standards. However, toxic chemicals are often used as both cleaning agents and as preservatives in building materials. In this Wolfson Living Lab study, we explore the use of a potential alternative to current preservatives and biocides – nanostructured zinc oxide – which has low toxicity to humans and a unique mechanism to reduce the likelihood of microbial growth. Although numerous laboratory studies have shown the efficacy of this material, real-world trials are lacking to study the true impact that it can have. In collaboration with Wolfson College’s building management, we developed and applied coatings to various areas throughout the college, from brick walls covered with algae to a display poster near the dining hall. We also developed a range of outreach materials, such as posts on social media, locations “tags” with QR codes, and online surveys.

    We found that interior formulations had similar antimicrobial activity to industry standard additives, and that the exterior coatings significantly reduce growth over a period of up to 5 months in winter. A lack of survey results despite the display and publicity also indicated that public concern about the use of new materials was not high, at least amongst the Wolfson community. Our interactions with industry and building management showed that labelling was a concern to some degree, and increasing regulations on toxic biocides are driving the needs for less toxic alternatives in the UK.

    Ultimately, this Living Lab project has been a key stepping-stone in bridging the gap from lab to reality. The project has driven us to create entirely new formulations, develop public outreach tools and foster connections with local industries. The next step that we would like to undertake from this project is an even larger scale study, in which we coat larger surface areas, such as an entire room, wall, or parking lot, to evaluate long term impact."


The informational poster and samples are successfully installed. Nick and Charlie face towards the camera with the poster in between them
July 2022 - Nick and Charlie (S&C Hub Lead) officially open Nick's project at Wolfson!
 #2 Using Infrared thermography for the assessment of building energy retrofit measures - Hui Ben


Wolfson Living Lab Project #2 - Energy Retrofit Measures - is being conducted by Wolfson alumnus, Dr Hui Ben.

The Author:

  • Dr Hui Ben is a researcher in Sustainable Architecture, recently awarded her doctorate in Architecture at the University of Cambridge and funded by Cambridge Trust. Read more about Hui Ben in her Wolfson S&C Story.

Project Background:

  • Hui's Living Lab project uses drone-mounted thermal infrared cameras (TIR) to emulate data obtained from TIR earth observation telescopes - funded by the UK Space Agency. The data acquired from Hui's project is then fed back into the design of the prototype satellite for earth observation. The Principal Investigators for this work are based in the Institute of Astronomy, and Department of Architecture, University of Cambridge. Ground-based thermal infrared cameras - provided by the Wolfson Living Lab - along with research grade thermal imaging equipment were used in the data collection to detect elements of the estate and its buildings that would most benefit from an insulation upgrade and other thermal considerations.
A drone soon to take flight with a thermal imaging camera attached to its underside
December 2021 - A drone soon to take flight with a thermal imaging camera attached to its underside.

Project Aims:

  • to use drone-mounted infrared thermography to provide an assessment of building energy retrofit measures for the Wolfson estate.
  • to demonstrate Hui's research as an improvement of monitoring techniques that can support the detection of in-use building heat loss from earth observation telescopes.


  • Wolfson College to receive a set of evidence-based retrofit recommendations to aid with sustainable decision-making of the Wolfson estate, retrofit and construction.
  • an in-situ case study for Hui's research, helping her communicate to stakeholders the benefits of the techniques she has developed.
Hui Ben and team taking internal temperature measurements to cross-check against those of the drone
December 2021 - Hui Ben and team taking internal temperature measurements to validate against the measurements performed by drone.​​​​


  • Hui on completing her project: "Wolfson provides a breeding ground for testing out innovative solutions towards sustainability and my project using Wolfson estate as case study demonstrates an example of this; I believe that the output will help Wolfson to design ways to improve its buildings’ performance whilst achieving the net-zero target".
A thermal image of one of the building of the Wolfson site, captured at distance to show the whole side of the building
December 2021 - a thermal infrared image of Fuchs House, with brighter colours showing warmer regions and darker colours showing colder regions.
Academic Year 2020-2021
 #1 Waste to Art - Santiago Sottil


Wolfson Living Lab Project #1 - "Waste to Art" - was being conducted by Wolfson student, Mr. Santiago Sottil.

An interview with Santiago on his Living Lab project can be read here.


President Jane Clarke opening the exhibitionSantiago presenting one of his artworks

Exhibition information panel 1. Text copied belowExhibition information panel 2. Text copied belowExhibition information panel 3. Text copied belowExhibition information panel 1. Text copied below

     President Jane Clarke and Dr Stephen Hoath presenting Santiago his Living Lab Award         Santiago and Anna Dempster after Santiago receives his Living Lab Award

A word from Santiago: "Wolfson’s Living Lab has allowed me to follow my passions and contribute to the sustainability of the College, even during the pandemic. I have been very fortunate to meet many Fellows and students involved in art and sustainability through the Living Lab, and its support has been essential in getting the Waste to Art project off the ground. I would absolutely repeat the process and encourage any member of the College to join the Living Lab!"


Transcript of text in images:

You are what you [don’t] eat.

Globally, one third of all food produced for human consumption is wasted: over 1.4 billion tonnes of food is lost every year.[1] At the same time, 690 million people go hungry everyday.[2] The global food chain, and wasted food which is part of it, is one of the biggest contributors to climate change, responsible for up to one quarter of all human-caused greenhouse-gas emissions.[3]. When we waste food, we also waste the resources that go into growing, making, packaging and distributing it. The average UK household throws away some 270 kg of food every year. And yet, most adults do not believe they waste much food at all nor do they think of it is an environmental problem.[4]

Food waste is also a stark measure of inequality. In low-income countries, the vast majority of food waste occurs during production, handling and storage. In developed countries, more than 40% of food is thrown away by the consumer.[1]

What can you do?

In the cafeteria:

  • Don’t take more than you can eat or ask for smaller portions

At home:

  • Check your cupboards/fridge/freezer and make a list before you go shopping
  • Avoid going grocery shopping while hungry
  • Get to know your date labels: use-by is the one that counts
  • Leave the packaging on: fresh food lasts up to 2 weeks longer if stored in its original pack
  • Plan your portions/meals: not cooking more than you need saves food, money, and time
  • Use your leftovers: fruit can be transformed into smoothies; wilted vegetables into soup!

About the Exhibition

The Waste to Art project and exhibition aims to draw attention to the food waste taking place every day; in almost every household or community, big or small. A massive environmental problem, it goes nearly un-noticed. A problem which is by definition ‘thrown away’ – ‘out of sight and out of mind’.

In these works, Santiago Sottil draws on the visual language of 17th Century Dutch still life, with all their trappings of the desirable, exotic and luxurious, but turning the idea on its head.

Each still-life is created using leftovers from the cafeteria, food destined to be discarded, thrown away. Data on how many plates of food are used in each image, and the impact on the environment is carefully recorded and presented in the labels.

The works are carefully presented in the style of Old Masters paintings, gilt and dark wood frames underscore their significance. At first glance, you might think this is just another display of establishment tradition. Yet, in the context of a dynamic modern College, each artwork represents an urgent call to action, a challenge to re-think what we have and what we throw away.

From Henri Matisse’s anthropomorphic chair which, looks like it might just walk away, to Marcel Duchamp notorious urinal or ready- made bottle-rack turned upside down and declared a sculpture, finding beauty in the discarded, unwanted or everyday, is a long- standing pre-occupation for artists. Inspired by leading contemporary artists such as Mat Collishaw, who draws on traditional genres to explore difficult debates like the death penalty, this exhibition also challenges us to look and look again, considering a different perspective, an alternative hypotheses.

In a project that has taken the better part of a remarkable and challenging year, this exhibition also inadvertently tracks the changing season of academic Terms – each with its own distinctive colours, scents and flavours. Each object – borrowed, found or salvaged from College – is made more poignant and meaningful as it represents not only what we have, but what we have been denied. Using the medium and language of art, we ask: – what do we need? what do we waste? and, what do we treasure?

Anna M. Dempster, Cambridge, May 2021

About the Artist

Originally from Guadalajara, Mexico, Santiago Sottil started drawing from a very early age, often exploring themes related to nature, architecture and the environment and inspired by his grandmother – who is an artist.

Increasingly conscious of the devastating economic and social impact of climate change, Santiago became curious about how these new and extreme environmental changes affect the natural world and how they might be explored, explained and communicated in a way that transcends language, borders and cultures.

After 18 years, Santiago swapped sub-tropical climates for the continental summers and very cold winters of Montreal, Quebec, Canada where he completed a Bachelors in Bioresource Engineering at McGill University, also working in sustainability consulting and as an Environment Specialist at Nestlé – where they make more than chocolate.

Santiago came to the UK in September 2020 to pursue an MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development at the University of Cambridge, enjoying the support and community of Wolfson College during the remarkable year of 2020-2021.

With a long-standing interest in the way our world can prepare, recover from, or adapt to extreme environmental shocks and increasing uncertainty, his MPhil dissertation explores climate change resilience. At the start of the pandemic he was painting more and more as way to explore the world, even in lockdown.

The Waste to Art project is a direct response to a challenge set by his professors – how to make the invisible visible?

In his free time, he enjoys cycling the trails around Cambridge, gardening, and painting. His parents, and grandmother (who is 94 in 2021) is planning to visit the exhibition in Cambridge this year.

Special Thanks

In a year when the world has been turned upside down by a global pandemic, many amazing people have made this project possible. This exhibition is a testimony to their friendship, support and creativity. A special thanks (in no particular order) to:

Wolfson Sustainability & Conservation Research Hub

  • Charlie Barty King, Richard Fenner, Steve Evans, Rae Scarlet White and Sian Cook for the introduction and ongoing support
  • Dario Illari, Nick Terry & Adam Bridgland and talented team at Jealous Gallery & Print Studio, London
  • Susie and Neville Bidwell @ Framing Talent
  • Karen and Derek Amery @ Brampton Framing
  • Charles Correa, Sam Frost, Darren Smith, and Wolfson’s remarkable Food Services Staff
  • Neil Newman & Wolfson Maintenance ‘All Stars’, Alan and Josh
  • Andrew Fowles & Wolfson’s perfect Porters
  • Wolfson Fine Arts Committee, past and present
  • Oscar Holgate and the amazing Garden’s team, rain or shine
  • Karam Alkatlabe, Michael Villaverde, Charlotte Callaghan

and President Jane Clarke, for believing in this project, start... to finish!


  1. FAO (2011) Global Food Losses and Food Waste.
  2. FAO (2020) The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2020.
  3. Ritchie, H. (2019) Food production is responsible for one-quarter of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, Our World in Data.
  4. WRAP (2009) Household Waste Prevention Evidence Review: Impact of Household Waste Prevention Interventions and Campaigns.
  5. My Emissions (2021) Food carbon footprint calculator.
  6. Water Footprint


Any questions, queries, clarification, advice or to chat, contact us anytime 🌐


Resources and funding

An initial fund of £3600 is available for all approved Living Lab Awards collectively. Approved projects are entitled to receive a £50 cash prize. Additional banded funds of £100, £250 or £500 are available for projects that require specific resources.

The Wolfson Living Lab Awards are made possible by a donation from the Hoath family “to stimulate the early development of Wolfson College’s Interdisciplinary Research Hub in Sustainability and Conservation; to encourage students, alumni and members to be involved in the Hub’s activities.” Read an interview with Dr. Steve Hoath here.

If you would like to support the Living Lab or the S&C Hub activities, please consider making a donation through Wolfson's Annual Giving page (choose "Other" in Designation and type "S&C Hub Fund"). Alternatively, you can discuss your gift with Sian Cook, our Development Director: development-director@wolfson.cam.ac.uk. Donations of every size, together, make a huge difference.

What's on

Cover of "Red Rag" magazine featuring a stylized red and black illustration of a woman with flowing hair, alongside text and a headline about women’s liberation.

Varieties of Togetherness: Some Approaches to Feminist Art History

21/05/2024 at 17.30

How might methods of feminist political organising offer transformative methods for art history? 

Two sets of hands making a pot on a pottery wheel

Show me your bowl and I’ll tell you who you are

28/05/2024 at 17.30

How can material culture be used to reconstruct ancient human stories?

Abstract marble sculpture with interconnected shapes and voids, displayed on a black pedestal against a draped white background.

Sculpture unveiling: Essay on Reticulations

28/05/2024 at 18.30

Join us for the unveiling of Essay on Reticulations, a new sculptural work at Wolfson College.

Wolfson Head Gardener in a white hat explaining features of green plants to visitors in an outdoor setting.

Wolfson Garden Tour: A World Environment Day Celebration

05/06/2024 at 16.45

What solutions is the Wolfson Garden employing to grow trees, revive water sources and rejuvinate soil?

 A man plays a french horn in an orchestra, surrounded by other musicians with sheet music stands visible.

Lunchtime Concert: Wolfson Chamber Group

08/06/2024 at 13.30

Hear the Wolfson Chamber Group perform at this Saturday lunchtime concert.