Wednesday, July 6, 2022

UBC Uses Eco-Sense

UBC Uses Eco-Sense

With global warming considered Earth’s greatest threat, more companies are seeking ways to reduce their environmental impact. Adopting energy-conserving measures is not only healthy for the planet, but it is also good for organizations’ bottom lines.

With global warming considered Earth’s greatest threat, more companies are seeking ways to reduce their environmental impact. Adopting energy-conserving measures is not only healthy for the planet, but it is also good for organizations’ bottom lines.

The University of British Columbia (UBC) is taking giant steps when it comes to going green. In 1997 UBC became the first Canadian university to adopt a sustainable-development policy.

“Eco-friendly design is one of the institution’s core values,” explains Charlene Easton, director of the UBC Sustainability Office.

“Universities have a critical role to play as early adopters of sustainability solutions,” says Easton. “In this regard, UBC has taken sustainability to whole new levels.”

C.K. Choi Building

One such example is the $4.5-million C.K. Choi Building, Institute of Asian Research that UBC opened in 1996. As with other campus structures, the building has multiple green features, including composting toilets. The system is waterless, so no water is required for flushing, saving more than 1,500 gallons of potable water every day. Plus, the system allows for a 90 percent reduction in the amount of waste, which in turn decomposes into rich compost.

Another unique aspect of the Choi building is its natural ventilation. Instead of bringing in air with giant fans and heating or cooling it with energy-draining mechanical systems, the ventilation consists of 100 percent fresh air and relies on natural laws of physics. When air enters the building, it naturally rises and warms up. Passageways between floors allow the air to travel upward, creating a stack effect. Small, local fans help the air circulate.

“Typically, a mechanical heating system accounts for 25 percent of the construction cost of a building,” Easton notes. “With the C.K. Choi building, it was 8 percent.”

The Liu Institute

New buildings at UBC are made with environmentally friendly, high-volume, fly-ash (HVFA) concrete. Fly ash is a waste product of coal-fired power plants and its use eliminates the need for regular cement, which is energy-intensive to manufacture. Vancouver’s two cement plants produce as many carbon-dioxide emissions as 80 percent of the city’s car traffic.

Finished in 2000, UBC’s Liu Centre for the Study of Global Issues was the first nonindustrial building in Canada to use the HVFA concrete mix. “If we can reduce the amount of cement used, we’re reducing our impact,” Easton says.

Life Sciences Centre

The $125-million UBC Life Sciences Centre last year earned the US Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design gold certification for its innovative sustainability features. A monitoring system adjusts lighting and ventilation in response to the external environment, saving 6.4 million kWh (kilowatt hour) of electricity and $200,000 in energy costs annually. The building consumes 28 percent less energy and 50 percent less water than standard buildings.

The Bottom Line

“Over the last eight years, we’ve avoided $19 million in utility costs,” Easton says. “But at the same time we’re also reducing our carbon emissions. This past fiscal year, our greenhouse-gas emissions were 2 percent below 1990 levels, despite a 45 percent increase in building area.”

“We’re reducing emissions and saving money–despite a tremendous amount of growth.”

Energetic Energy-Saver

Charlene Easton, as current director of the UBC Sustainability Office, is not only administering the ground-breaking initiatives that are making the UBC campus environmentally friendly, but she is also inspiring students “to become active participants in the search for ideas and solutions that will shape our common future.”

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