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CIRS building recovers energy from a neighbour

A new - very green - building is nearing completion on the University of British Columbia campus.


Centre for Research in Sustainability (CIRS), University of British Columbia, Vancouver
Centre for Research in Sustainability (CIRS), University of British Columbia, Vancouver

A new – very green – building is nearing completion on the University of British Columbia campus.

The Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability (CIRS) will be substantially complete in late May, and will open in August.

It is dedicated to research, collaboration and outreach for urban sustainability. Not surprisingly it incorporates a host of innovative energy saving and sustainable technologies.

Consisting of 58,000 square feet, the building has two four-storey wings, and a north-south oriented atrium that will display information about the building’s operation.

But this is no building just for “techies.” The centre is intended to encourage interaction and collaboration between disciplines and groups, and will be not just to UBC’s Sustainability Initiative management group, but also organizations and companies such as BC Hydro, the National Research Council’s fuel cell group and TREK transportation. Students from many different faculties will be attending lectures in the 450-seat auditorium.

Aside from the concrete basement and sheer walls on the ground floor, the structure is almost entirely built of wood “the only building material made by the sun that is 100% renewable.”

It will be “energy positive,” and self-sufficient for its water use. It has 100% daylighting, and operable windows for natural ventilation when conditions allow.

Perhaps the most unique HVAC feature of the building is that it recovers heat from an adjacent campus building.

A ground source heat pump is sized to provide cooling in the auditorium, and help with back up heating during the winter.

Electricity is provided by a 25-kW photovoltaic system and hot water from a 40-kW solar system. Purified rainwater will provide 100% of the potable water needs, and wastewater will be recycled for toilets and landscape irrigation.

Busby Perkins + Will are the architects, with Stantec Consulting as mechanical-electrical engineers, Fast + Epp as structural engineers, and Heatherbrae as construction managers.

The building is designed for LEED platinum certification, and it is also being submitted for Living Building certification under the Cascadia Living Building Challenge.