UBC Reports | Vol.
51 | No. 4 |
Apr. 7, 2005
New Centre will be a Hub for Vancouver Sustainability Initiatives
By Brian Lin
UBC’s first building at the new Great Northern Way
Campus (GNWC) is not only good for the environment, it also
makes excellent financial sense and offers opportunities for
community service learning and increased export potential.
The Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability (CIRS),
to begin construction in spring 2006, is designed to serve
as a living laboratory where sustainability researchers, businesses
and policy makers will practice -- and reap the benefits of
-- what they preach.
Designed with 3D virtual technology, which has already eliminated
the need for an enormous amount of paper, CIRS will be built
with sustainable materials and incorporate some of the most
innovative sustainability technology. Features such as eventual
net annual power generation -- where a building generates
more power than it uses -- 100 per cent day-lighting, and
oxygenated environments make it environmentally friendly,
economical and a healthy place to work.
Meanwhile, the building’s price tag, at $23.5 million,
is comparable to conventional campus buildings of the same
scale. Funding comes from the Canada Foundation for Innovation,
private sources, and is expected from the BC Knowledge Development
“Sustainable infrastructure doesn’t have to cost
an arm and a leg,” says John Robinson, a professor in
UBC’s Sustainable Development Research Institute and
CIRS project leader. “Nor does it mean sacrificing the
level of comfort we have become accustomed to.”
“While certain sustainable features may cost more to
construct -- solar hot water tubes and natural ventilation
systems, for example -- other equally costly equipment, such
as central air-conditioning and heating systems are not required.
As a result, tenants are spared significant long-term energy
costs,” says Robinson.
As a showcase of its own innovative features, such as remote-source
lighting that uses prism light guide technology invented by
UBC physicist and VP Academic Lorne Whitehead, CIRS could
also help catapult B.C. to be the leader of sustainable building
CIRS is no ivory tower, either. Partnerships are being struck
with private, public and non-governmental organization sectors,
including the City of Vancouver, the David Suzuki Foundation,
BC Hydro and Vancity Credit Union, to ensure ongoing knowledge
and technology transfer. Some potential partners have requested
to house their sustainability departments or retail outlets
in the building.
“B.C. already has a number of advantages in sustainability
development,” says Robinson. “By working closely
with our partners, we can help government develop better policies
and businesses make better decisions.”
The Centre is providing valuable learning opportunities before
the first shovel even goes into the ground. The Learning City
Project, which brings together researchers from UBC, SFU,
BCIT and Emily Carr Institute (the four GNWC institutional
partners) to address sustainability issues, is creating academic
programming that turns the GNWC into an open classroom.
The Project’s first offering, a six-week intensive
undergraduate course titled Action and Awareness: Focus on
Urban Sustainability, starts in June 2005 and involves instructors
from all four institutions and follows the construction of
the Central Valley Greenway, a 26-kilometre stretch of urban
trail that runs from Science World, through GNWC and Burnaby,
and ends in New Westminster Quay. The course will be open
to students from all GNWC institutions.
Between now and when the Greenway is completed in 2007, students
in each year will develop proposals to address issues identified
at various stages by community stakeholders, including the
three municipalities, community organizations and residents.
“It’s the first time anyone has taken the idea
of community service learning to the level where undergraduates
could impact policy development,” says Institute of
Health Promotion Research Asst. Prof. Rob VanWynsberghe, who
co-designed the course with UBC graduate Janet Moore around
the principle of university-community engagement. “We
plan that students will get to see their proposals implemented
or adopted as part of the Greenway.
“The trans-disciplinary nature of the course, incorporating
design, architecture, geography and sustainability, allows
us to provide creative solutions to a truly complex urban
development project,” he adds.