British Columbia College Goes Uber Green

Think net zero status in a green building is ambitious? Try “net positive.” In Canada. The University of British Columbia’s (UBC’s) new Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability (CIRS) not only powers itself, but a neighboring building as well, all while creating drinking water from rain (yes) and treating all of its own wastewater onsite. All of which makes this $37 million “living laboratory,” according to UBC, the most sustainable building in North America.

If some of these uber-green features sound familiar to you, you’re likely familiar with the Cascadia chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council’s standards for the Living Building Challenge, which this project meets, while handily surpassing LEED Platinum minimums. Appropriately enough, the CIRS has been developed by the university to serve as an international center for research, partnership and action on sustainability issues, including green building design and operations, environmental policy and community engagement. As part of that research, managers will study users’ interactions with the building to improve its performance while maximizing “the happiness, health and productivity” of its inhabitants. The aim is to advance best green building practices at UBC and beyond.

Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability

image via University of British Columbia

A key green feature of the building? Good old fashioned wood-framing, consisting primarily of certified wood and beetle-killed wood (currently B.C.’s largest source of carbon emissions), which alone locks in more than 500 tons of carbon.

Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability

image via University of British Columbia

The 600,000-square-foot facility is home to BC Hydro Theatre, which utilizes advanced visualization and interaction technologies to engage audiences in sustainability and climate change scenarios; the 450-seat Modern Green Development Auditorium; indoor environmental quality and building simulation software labs; a building management system that shares building performance in real-time; and a café that uses no disposable packaging and serves local and organic food.

More information on the CIRS is available online, as well as via this short video below.

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Susan DeFreitas has covered all manner of green technology for EarthTechling since 2009. She is a graduate of Prescott College for the Liberal Arts and the Environment, and has a background in marketing green businesses. Her work on green living has been featured in Yes! Magazine, the Utne Reader and Natural Home.


  • Reply November 17, 2011

    A Green Roadu2122

    Does it have a green roof?

  • Reply November 21, 2011


    Yes, a green roof. Also a green wall.nBut more so, it reclaims its own waste water. Cleans it thoroughly and re-uses it for irrigation of that green roof and wall and for toilet flushing!

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