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The C.K. Choi building is the first green building at UBC - photo by Martin Dee
The C.K. Choi building is the first green building at UBC - photo by Martin Dee

UBC Reports | Vol. 52 | No. 4 | Apr. 6, 2006

Growing a New Generation of Green Buildings

By Brian Lin

Trees aren’t the only things sprouting up green at UBC these days. Walk into one of the newer buildings, and you’re likely to encounter a range of environmentally friendly features.

The first two green buildings -- the C.K. Choi Building for the Institute of Asian Research and the Liu Institute for Global Studies -- were constructed in the late 1990s. They have won five international awards, including a listing on the American Institute of Architects’ Top Ten Earth Day 2000 Green Buildings, for features such as natural ventilation, recycled building materials and composting toilets.

More recently, the Fred Kaiser Building, which opened in September 2005 and houses the Dept. of Electrical and Computer Science, was lauded for its use of solar-protectant ceramic window coating to conserve energy while maximizing natural lighting. Designed to be a “living laboratory” for engineering students, the facility’s skylights are lined with photovoltaic cells to store solar power for emergency lighting and serves as an educational tool for electrical engineering students.

The Life Sciences Centre (LSC) made history this January when it was awarded the prestigious Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED ®) Gold certification by the United States Green Building Council for its innovative sustainability features. The largest building at UBC, the LSC is only the second facility that houses research laboratories in Canada to receive the environmentally-friendly seal of approval. Only four other buildings in the province and seven others in Canada have reached this rating.

Compared to standard buildings, the LSC emits 1,000 tonnes fewer greenhouse gases annually, consumes 28 per cent less energy and 50 per cent less water. A dynamic monitoring system, which adjusts interior lighting and ventilation according to the external environment, contributes to an annual saving of 6.4 million kWh of electricity and nearly $200,000 in energy costs.

Over at the Great Northern Way Campus (GNWC), the Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability (CIRS) is set to begin construction this spring. Designed with 3D virtual software, CIRS will incorporate cutting-edge sustainability features, including oxygenated environments and remote-source lighting technology, invented by Lorne Whitehead, UBC Vice-President, Academic.

UBC’s newest campus in Kelowna, B.C., is also poised to make major innovations. Groundwater geo-exchange technology, where groundwater will be used to heat and cool $400 million worth of new buildings planned for the UBC Okanagan campus, will be replacing an existing natural gas plant, which is nearing the end of its lifespan.

It is estimated that the new system will prevent 38,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere over a 20-year period, the equivalent to taking 8,000 cars off the road, or planting 18,000 acres of fruit trees or vineyards.

In addition to these academic facility milestones, UBC’s residential developments are also going “green.”

“In just the past year, seven development projects on campus have adopted the Residential Environmental Assessment Program (REAP),” says Jorge Marques, energy manager of the UBC Sustainability Office.

Launched in November 2004, the made-in-UBC pilot program is the residential equivalent of LEED®, which is awarded to leading-edge buildings that incorporate environmentally sustainable design, construction, and operational features to reduce environmental impact. During its pilot year, housing developers were encouraged to voluntarily comply -- and exceed - sustainability principles already being applied to their institutional counterparts.

REAP is now mandatory for all new residential developments on campus, including the upcoming South Campus Neighbourhood, which will consist of nearly 2,000 homes.

“It ensures a basic level of energy and water efficiency and encourages developers to take additional steps to produce a more sustainable project,” says Marques. “In one mid-sized development that is currently under construction, the home owners will collectively save over $11,500 in energy costs per year as a direct result of using this program.”

While LEED®, used for institutional buildings and high-rises, can be costly and time-consuming, REAP takes a market-driven approach to attracting developers to adopt sustainability initiatives, says Marques.

“It was never meant to be outrageously costly or onerous. We simply offer developers principles that are good for the environment and ultimately healthier for the residents.”

Neighbouring municipalities including North Vancouver, Burnaby and as far away as Kelowna have noticed REAP’s success and requested information to potentially adopt the program.

Meanwhile, Joe Redmond, vice-president of UBC Properties Trust, which co-developed REAP, says the University’s commitment to sustainability goes far deeper than conscientious designs and energy-efficient buildings.

“In both the UBC Official and Comprehensive Community Plans, concrete goals were set to transform us from a commuter campus to a university town where 25 per cent of the students live here and 50 per cent of campus housing will have at least one resident studying or working at UBC,” says Redmond.

“The decrease in fossil fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emission from that policy alone will far exceed energy efficiency savings of any green building. The impact will be tremendous.”

“As far as sustainability is concerned, no other community in North America is aiming for such high standards.”

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Last reviewed 22-Sep-2006

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