UBC College for Interdisciplinary Studies

For the Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability, a campus building demonstrating leading edge research and sustainable design.

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CIRS is for Sustainability

Innovation is the name of the game for the University of British Columbia (UBC) and its researchers. This year the focus is on sustainability in a very big way with the opening of the Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability (CIRS) at UBC’s Point Grey campus in Vancouver.  Dedicated to “research collaboration and outreach leading to workable solutions for the challenges of urban sustainability,” CIRS is the most innovative building of its kind in North America.

Not only will the building be home to all types of sustainability research, it will also be the subject of it. Every component of the building and its inhabitants — called this because tenants will “live” in the space, not just occupy it — will be part of an ongoing study of the building’s performance and interactivity. This is due to its unprecedented “green” features. UBC has gone above and beyond to create an eco-friendly and almost entirely self-sufficient building. They are currently on target for LEED Platinum certification and are also aiming to be one of the first buildings in Canada to be certified as a Living Building.

Some of the building features that will help CIRS acquire LEED Platinum and Living Building certification include:

  • Electricity sourced through large solar collectors, photo-voltaic cells, geothermal energy, and waste energy from surrounding buildings. As a result, the building will be net positive for energy, returning excess energy to the BC Hydro grid.
  • Precipitation as the only source of water, which will be treated on-site at two levels. Potable water will be treated to City-regulated levels and will be safe for consumption, while non-potable (grey) water will be used for the flushing of toilets and the watering of gardens.
  • Several green walls will be installed, the main one being the west green wall, which will provide air conditioning and purification and will also serve as an architectural feature.
  • Extensive access to daylight through large windows and skylights. Inhabitants will be able to supplement natural light through a web-based lighting control system if necessary.
  • Natural ventilation, which will be used as much as possible.

All building inhabitants will be able to monitor building performance through a web-based program or on the video wall. Consisting of four large screens in the lobby, the video wall will display real-time information on water and energy consumption and production, as well as building activities. CIRS will be the home of the UBC Sustainability Initiative, and the video wall will be one of their first initiatives at CIRS to integrate sustainability in teaching, learning, research, and operations on-campus.

As their largest project to date, the UBC Sustainability Initiative has big goals for CIRS. First and foremost they are aiming to be the world leader in sustainability and seek to nurture new technology in this field. They also seek to make significant progress in BC’s sustainability and intend to use the UBC campus as a testing ground for numerous alternative energy sources. In order to help reach these goals, CIRS has several state of the art facilities. These include the BC Hydro Theatre, which will feature advanced visualization technology for showcasing research scenarios; the Policy Lab, which is a flexible space for workshops and meetings; and the Building Simulation Software Lab, for the development of simulation software and the analysis of research capabilities. CIRS will also house a building monitoring and assessment lab, a 450-seat lecture hall; and the CIRS Café, which will serve sustainable food and beverages while educating customers on food sustainability issues.

“The opening of the Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability provides an exciting demonstration of how we can advance the green building agenda to create restorative buildings — buildings that actually make both the physical and human environment better because they exist,” says John Robinson, Executive Director of the UBC Sustainability Initiative.

Our grant for the CIRS project was allocated to the west green wall. With a predicted lifespan of 30 years, the Real Estate Foundation of BC Green Wall is a passive design element that provides significant ecological benefits.