Green features come to life

A campus building that will model new environmental technologies nears completion

Rainforest canopies with their tall trees and vines are amazing sources of energy. They regulate the climate for people, plants and animals living below.

In April, UBC’s Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability (CIRS), expected to be the greenest building in North America when it opens this fall, will create its own version of a forest canopy across the top two stories of its three-story exterior west facade. The lush green wall will be planted in front of windows with a fast-growing vine, Virginia Creeper, to help create a comfortable interior climate.

In summer, its dense green leaves will provide shade and protection from the heat of the sun. In autumn, the leaves turn a spectacular flaming red and then drop so the sun can filter through the glass. Inhabitants won’t be the only ones to benefit from the green wall. The plants’ blue-black berries are a winter food source for birds.

The plants will appear to be growing from the building but are actually supported on a steel frame that stands alone. “It’s actually a simple system,” says Alberto Cayuela, associate director of the UBC Sustainability Initiative. The sun’s heat is blocked by shade to cool temperatures and as temperatures drop, shines through windows creating heat when it’s needed.”

The vegetated wall, which will advance the idea of cost-free control of indoor climate, is one of the many ways CIRS will be a living laboratory for sustainability.

Learn more about CIRS at: sustain.ubc.ca/hubs/cirs

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