This Building Is Beyond Green

Posted by Dani on May 29, 2012

As an engineer, I am fascinated by the integration of technology into our lives, and the ways it can serve us as we create the lives we want to live. Whenever I hear about the world’s mounting problems, I am heartened to think about the huge strides we have made in so many areas of science in the past century and the mind-blowing innovations that show our huge potential. The CIRS building on UBC campus is a great example. This is a building that goes beyond net-zero green construction, and actually enhances the health of the planet and the inhabitants who use it.
The Center for Interactive Research on Sustainability at the University of British Columbia shows that a building can be regenerative. It gives back to the environment in 4 ways – energy, water, and 2 types of carbon reduction. It works on the rain that falls on it. No wastewater leaves the building. It can run with all the lights off during the day. Glass window shades incorporate photovoltaic cells to generate electricity, which can be used elsewhere on the campus. A small glassed-in cube near the front door houses tropical plants that act as an on-site sewage treatment facility, so that all toilet effluent is turned into usable water and compost. The building can even trap waste heat from a nearby building and use it for heating.

What I especially love is that the building is gorgeous, showing that it is possible to have it all. The abundant use of wood (much of it from forests damages by mountain pine beetles) adds a sense of warmth to the soaring, modern spaces. But the truly remarkable thing about CIRS is the fact that all the necessary technology existed and was available off the shelf. The extraordinary performance of this building was achieved through a collaborative effort by all partners, planners, disciplines and trades involved – in other words, people just working together. Mind-blowingly simple. It shows that human activity can be good for the environment. And it’s Canadian, too. Not bad, eh?

If you’re ever in the Vancouver area, request a tour here. And check out our post on a stunning and sustainable bamboo building in Bali.


photo credits 1. Perkins+Will 2. Perkins+Will 3. Martin Dee 4. Perkins+Will 5. Don Erhardt

3 Responses to “This Building Is Beyond Green”

  1. It’s quite beautiful. I wish some of this technology was available for use in a smaller scale – say normal everyday houses without being so prohibitively expensive.

  2. Green Steve says:

    It certainly looks spectacular and somewhere that I’d love to work – compare that to the generic modern office building and you are poles apart.

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