UBC Campus Energy Centre wins Canadian Green Building Award

UBC Campus Energy Centre wins Canadian Green Building Award

Climate change is heightening our anxieties. In response, there are designers who are making bold moves to shift our ideas about material uses and design decisions.

These choices to communicate care in construction have become an artform….


The Canadian Green Building Awards celebrate aspirational concepts that have been effectively implemented, and that set new standards in sustainable design. The Awards offer information and showcase the evolved practices emerging in Canada as they relate to the local products and the local climate conditions.

SABMag Small Infrastructure winner, The University of British Colombia (UBC) Campus Energy Centre by principal architect and sustainability champion, Martin Neilsen, has been drawing lots of attention in BC for its situation and structure.  Not only does it house a state of the art hot water distribution loop that services all buildings on campus; and, not only has this distribution loop reduced UBC GHG emissions substantially, the building ignites the campus from its core. Think about it… do you know what turns your lights on at night? UBC students do. They see the guts of their Campus Energy Centre on the way to class every day; this infrastructure building has not been hidden away from the population’s plain site as per the norm. It’s open-faced façade intentionally draws attention to the systems within, not only creating energy, but a deeper understanding of consumption as well.


So when it comes to sustainable design, what sets CEC apart?

Infrastructure buildings are typically constructed out of concrete or steel, and therefore tend to feel cold. The design team advocated for a primarily wood structure – both glulams and CLT panels were used wherever possible. This reduced the embodied energy of this LEED Gold building, and as an added bonus, created a more pleasant experience for inhabitants. Biophillia, is after all the rage, as it should be.

More thought went into the experience of the building’s users… the design of the plant incorporated significant daylight wherever possible, including the boiler bays and supporting DE equipment areas, which are normally enclosed or in underground facilities. Planted rain-gardens were also located along the glazed west façade to provide a direct view to vegetation from the inside.

What about that envelope? It’s made of zinc. Why? Because the run off of this cladding material is significantly less toxic than other metal or asphaltic cladding materials.

The overall stormwater strategy for the site reduces the rate and volume of stormwater runoff from the pre-development and treats 90% of the average annual runoff using infiltration, detention, filtration, and settling. The rain gardens infiltrate runoff from the roof and impervious areas around the site. An under-drain under the topsoil prevents the topsoil from becoming flooded and excess flows are conveyed to a 4.95 m3 detention facility.

A nutrient management plan improves the ecology of the site to provide nutrient control procedures that monitor structural measures, exterior cleaning products and landscape fertilizers. These measures help reduce and treat nutrients as they are transferred through storm water from urban sites to surrounding natural water bodies, avoiding algal blooms, oxygen depletion, biodiversity reduction, and the proliferation of invasive species.

The building has 28.63% of recycled content materials by value, and over 95% of construction waste was diverted from the landfill during construction. The waste diversion was in large part achieved through prefab construction techniques of CLT panels, which allowed for material efficiency. Additionally, over 50% by value of the major materials in the building were sourced regionally.

Water Conservation? CEC is equipped with low flow and dual flush plumbing fixtures, native and adaptive plantings and a Rainbird Smart Irrigation system and controller.

Want more DIALOG sustainability? Check out a project that’s growing some petals: Bill Fisch Forest Stewardship and Education Centre.

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