Architect: DIALOG | Photos: Ema Peters

State-of-the-Art Low Energy Steals the Limelight

Sustainability and mass timber take center stage at the University of British Columbia’s Campus Energy Centre (CEC). Designed as a “living lab” to showcase and communicate the building’s state-of-the-art systems, the facility is set to reduce this university’s carbon footprint by more than 20 per cent.  The natural warmth of cross-laminated timber (CLT), unique to a building of this kind, gives a striking visual contrast to the behemoth of energy-efficient machinery inside.

Project Details

Set in the heart of the UBC Vancouver campus, the CEC is an innovative hot water boiler facility capable of meeting all the institution’s heating requirements. The facility’s central location gives it an educational as well as a functional role, while its luminous glass façade puts its inner working on display for all the campus to see. On the west facade, the metal shroud is cut away to reveal the glazed skin of the boiler house, giving passersby views into the timber-framed building. Interpretive signage educates the UBC community about the daily energy production on campus.


Wood Use

The primary structure is constructed of locally sourced cross-laminated timber (CLT) panels supported by glulam columns and twenty-metre clear-span beams. Perforated zinc cladding wraps the exterior, and in some cases is peeled back to provide transparency into the interior wood-wrapped space. The design team used as much structural engineered wood as possible to offset embodied carbon.

Environmental Impact

Interior spaces are naturally ventilated and filled with natural light, while additional space conditioning is provided by waste process heat. The facility includes a condensing economizer, a cost-effective waste heat recovery system which improves the facility’s energy efficiency. The site location was carefully chosen to allow for future electrical and thermal energy cogeneration options, and/or other new thermal energy production opportunities. The facility is part of the university’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction program. The university estimates the CEC’s high-efficiency energy production, combined with a new district energy system and specialized underground piping, will reduce its annual carbon dioxide (CO2) footprint by an expected 22 per cent from 2007 baseline levels.