Photo: Don Erhardt

Wood: An integral part of a net-positive building

A flagship project of the University of British Columbia’s Campus as a Living Laboratory initiative, the Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability (CIRS) is studied to explore the role of buildings in maintaining environmental integrity and human well-being. The four-story building emphasizes simple forms and materials, as exemplified by an exposed wood structure and visible connections. On track for LEED Platinum certification and Living Building Challenge recognition, CIRS is a ‘regenerative’ building, which means that it seeks not only to reduce harmful environmental impacts, but to improve both the environment and lives of its inhabitants. Among its positive impacts, the carbon sequestered in the wood structure is greater than the carbon emitted during extraction, manufacturing, transportation and installation of its building materials. CIRS also harvests and returns to campus more renewable energy than it takes from the electricity grid.

Project Details

The University of British Columbia is committed to leadership in sustainability in both education and operations. It has developed the Campus as a Living Laboratory (CLL) initiative, a university-wide program utilizing the Vancouver campus as an incubator for sustainable technologies, systems and strategies. The whole campus is an ideal test-bed because of its size—1,001 acres—and its mix of academic, business and residential development. As part of the CLL initiative, demonstration projects can be researched and developed, and applied to communities beyond UBC. The Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability (CIRS), one of the flagship projects of the CLL initiative, is being studied to explore the role of buildings in maintaining environmental integrity and human well-being.

CIRS is an interdisciplinary academic centre; the building is home to multiple research projects and the subject of ongoing studies on the long-term effects of sustainable design, construction and operation. Passive design strategies are integrated with high-performance systems following a regenerative framework; which challenges buildings to be restorative forces in their environments instead of being labelled “less bad” or “more efficient.” CIRS is expected to be UBC’s first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) Platinum Building, and is on track to receive Living Building Challenge recognition. It is also envisioned as a new baseline in sustainable buildings, for other projects to strive to surpass.

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