The UBC Student Union Building, Vancouver, BC, set to open in 2014 is a state-of-the-art example of sustainability that demonstrates how buildings can benefit their inhabitants and the environment at the same time. The Student Union Building is one of 108 LEED Platinum buildings in the country and was designed to promote innovation and research into sustainability. It is UBC’s second LEED Platinum certified building. One of the main research activities of the building involves measuring the effects of the indoor environment on human health, happiness and behaviour.
The construction uses primarily wood, which means that the building stores in excess of 900 tonnes of carbon. Utilizing waste heat from an adjacent building, the CIRS reduces the university’s carbon emissions. The building utilizes portable water, by harvesting rainwater.
UBC Alma Mater Society (AMS) worked with UBC Properties Group to create a Student Union Building that would showcase cutting-edge strategies for regenerative green design on a shoestring budget.
Under the guidance of Halsall, UBC and AMS aligned their priorities and objectives for the sustainability of the new building.
Firstly, the team needed to work closely with the university, the consulting team and the students to establish an understanding, envision a strategy and align goals for sustainability. During workshops, the team considered the viability of implementing Living Building Challenge elements. These elements are some of the most advanced green building design measures that have helped the team establish water and energy intensity targets. This is also what helped the team decide on the LEED Platinum strategy. The team then created their Green Design Brief.
Not only did the university achieve LEED Platinum certification for their UBC Student Union Building, but they have also realized a design strategy that is estimated to save in excess of 60% on energy. The LEED Platinum certification is the highest designation available in green building performance and is awarded by the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. This award is the first of its kind for the University of British Columbia, and it recognizes the university’s and the architects’ commitment to sustainability in design and construction.
The UBC Student Union Building was designed by architects from Perkins and Will and will be treated as a living laboratory. Students, partners and researchers will use the building to demonstrate and test designs and to advance technologies to further the public’s knowledge of sustainable building and related practices within their communities.
One of the main features of the building is that it was designed with expansion in mind. The central plant has been upgraded to allow the new design to easily connect with it, one it is ready. Once PV or solar thermal technology becomes financially viable, it can easily be integrated into the building’s current mechanical system.
The UBC has required that as of 2008, all new or renovated buildings must meet LEED Gold certification or higher. The Vancouver campus currently houses five LEED Gold certified buildings. Another eight buildings are awaiting certification, while six are currently under construction.