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SUB Culture

From YouTube to the Cube, UBC students bring the underground to sustainable campus design.

Vancouver, British Columbia

Social media

Unprecedented in Canada, DIALOG was selected by the students of UBC through an intensive social media process to design their $75 million LEED® platinum Student Union Building. The project forms a central piece of a new public square at the entry to UBC. The building includes extensive food and retail uses, club rooms, a black box theatre, meeting rooms and an agricultural roof garden – all focused around a central atrium / agora.

Intensive integrated design process

An intensive Integrated Design Process (IDP) was used to establish the design for this project. The process involved the students, project manager, UBC representatives, key consultant team members and engineering sub-consultants at the same table for project charrettes, IDP and project management meetings exploring parallel issues including program issues, sustainability issues, design and material preferences to name a few. With the findings from these parallel explorations, the team developed 5 different building concepts. These options became the subject of another workshop and public open house that led to a preferred concept. An iterative process including IDP and user meetings, and utilizing workshops, led to the preferred design concept.

Regenerative design and sustainability

As a LEED® platinum building, incorporating elements of the Living Building Challenge, the New SUB will be extremely energy-efficient. Design strategies place a priority on minimizing consumption. A high performance envelope, natural ventilation and daylight harvesting are amongst the long list of strategies that are integral to this low energy building. Rainwater harvesting will be used as one of the means to reduce water use significantly on the project.

Flexibility, adaptability, future-proofing

Moveable, reconfigurable, de/reconstructible systems allow flexibility to respond to short-term changes (hours, days, months, etc). Durable materials and non-prescriptive elements allow for adaptation to occur over longer timescales. The skillful combination of the two provides a robust and nimble capacity to respond to the challenges of designing for unknowable futures.


The New SUB Building is conceived of a means of shaping flows through space – flows of peoples, of materials, ecologies, energies…and ideas. 4d sustainability depends on both: - a deep understanding of and sensitivity towards the nested scales of flows and flow exchanges through and across the site; and – the exchange of ideas, aspirations and everyday actions towards more sustainable possible futures.

Project facts

Size: 24,000 sq. m./ 258,333 sq. ft.
Completed: 2015
Collaborators : B+H Associated Architects, Applied Engineering Solutions (AES), Read Jones Christoffersen (RJC), Ema Peter Photography
Client: UBC Properties Trust
LEED Registered: Platinum

Achievements & Awards

Outstanding Steel Structure, Engineering Division - Canadian Institute of Steel Construction (CISC)