The Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability opens at the University of British Columbia

Built in response to the global challenge of creating a more sustainable society, the Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability (CIRS) is one of the most innovative and high-performance buildings built in North America today, demonstrating leading-edge green building design technologies, products, and systems. CIRS is a state-of-the-art “living-lab” in which researchers from leading academic institutions worldwide can conduct interactive research on and assessment of current and future building systems and technologies. Partners from private and public sectors share the facility, working with CIRS researchers to ensure study conducted is connected to real world needs of the community, industry, and policy makers. The outcome of research, product and policy development manifested from CIRS will play a fundamental role in accelerating the path to sustainability.

Designed to exceed LEED Platinum and Living Building Challenge standards, CIRS is one of the few commercial buildings constructed primarily of certified wood and beetle-killed wood (currently BC’s largest source of carbon emissions). Its wood structure locks in more than 500 tonnes of carbon, offsetting the GHG emissions that resulted from the use of other non-renewable construction materials in the building, such as cement, steel and aluminum. Other net-positive qualities include reducing UBC’s carbon emissions, powering itself and a neighbouring building with renewable and waste energy, and providing water for inhabitants with rainwater while waste water is treated onsite.

This 5,700-square-metre facility houses highly flexible classrooms, laboratories and office space in addition to lecture theatres, a public atrium, exhibition spaces and a café. Every work space is daylit, naturally ventilated, with temperature and air under individual control.

The CIRS project is almost 10 years in the making. Peter Busby, principal architect on the project, credits Dr John Robinson, the champion of UBC’s Sustainability Initiative, for his patience, persistence and perseverance seeing the project through to completion. “CIRS is an exemplary building, using strategies that include the extensive use of local wood to go beyond Deep Green,” says Busby. “This building reaches out to the rest of the UBC campus, putting sustainability on display to educate and inspire.”

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