You never know what season it will be in this lab. The temperature and humidity can be changed to replicate a range of environmental conditions from frozen winter (-20°C) to stifling summer (+35°C) and up to 95% RH (relative humidity). Scientists are using the lab to pilot, design, develop and test state-of-the-art winter clothing and footwear that is safe and easy to use, especially for older people and those with disabilities. Studies are being carried out to design winter footwear that can prevent slips and falls in winter. The unique features of this lab enable the researchers evaluate the thermal properties and slip resistance of different pavements under winter weather cycles. In addition, the lab is used to examine how the body responds to heat and cold, and to develop exercise programs for people with health conditions such as heart disease and asthma. Assistive technology and accessible environment designs are also tested and enhanced here to suit Canadian climates.
Slippery sidewalks in winter are responsible for many serious injuries and deaths each year. Pavement condition is one of the sources of slips and falls. Recently, a study has been conducted in ClimateLab to investigate the melting pattern of snow and ice on three different types of pavement, including conventional, heated and permeable pavements.
The ClimateLab environment has been used to research the effectiveness of clothing to protect people of all ages from the effects of cold weather, and has also been used to evaluate the effects of cold water versus cold air on hands.
The temperature in ClimateLab can be adjusted from -20C to +35C. A key feature of the ClimateLab design is the observation room that is separated by insulated glass from the climate chamber, so that data can be collected from biomechanics and physiologic measurement systems in comfort.
Studies have shown a link between snowfall, low temperatures and risk of heart attack. There were nearly 9,000 hospitalizations due to falls on ice in Canada in 2016-2017, making them the number-one cause of sport or winter injuries, according to the statistics from the Canadian Institute for Health Information.