Beyond the Burg: UBC constructs greenest building in North America

    The University of British Columbia-Vancouver is in the process of designing the greenest building in North America for its Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability.

    Construction began last September, and the building is currently set to open in summer 2011 on the aptly named Sustainability Street of UBC’s Vancouver campus.

    “Sustainability is about what kind of world we want to live in,” John Robinson, project leader and professor at UBC’s Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability said.

    The $37 million building will house sustainability research, development and practice.

    It is designed to be greenhouse gas-positive and a net-energy producer, which will reduce the energy UBC uses and the carbon it emits. All water used throughout the building will be collected from rainwater, and there will be wastewater treatment on site.

    The university has also designed the building to be easily deconstructed, to make the building more adaptable to future green technologies. As current green systems grow outdated, they can be replaced by more efficient ones at minimal cost.

    Building processes such as building occupancy, inhabitant behavior, water harvesting and treatment, heating, cooling, lighting and equipment use will be monitored at all times.

    This information will be made accessible to the facility’s desktop computers where they can vote on what features are helpful.

    In a October 2009 report, Robinson recommended that the Centre also be the future home of the University Sustainability Initiative to create a single powerhouse for all of UBC’s sustainable activities. Most North American universities separate the academic and operational sides of the sustainability efforts.

    “It’s proven hard to [integrate these programs],” Robinson said. “They’re very different worlds.”

    The Centre is looking forward in involving the public community. “Community engagement isn’t just desirable in principle,” Robinson said. “It’s actually necessary to achieve a sustainable future.”

    CIRS is currently partnered with Simon Fraser University, the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design and the British Columbia Institute of Technology.


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