Tipping point: How CIRS will transform building water use

Strolling by UBC’s Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability (CIRS), most passers-by probably won’t be aware that there is a 90m well nearby that penetrates straight through rock and clay to the aquifer below.

But they will notice a simple, yet intriguing water feature, a tipping bucket. It’s fascinating to watch as water trickles in, but this decorative feature will also play a big role as part of the living laboratory. The tipping bucket represents the a combination of engineering and architecture that manages storm-water run-off, and is part of what makes CIRS a restorative building. The tipping bucket, about as big a chair, does much more than collect and pour a stream of water. It’s the final destination in the CIRS waste water treatment system before water that can’t be used is restored to the aquifer.

It’s role is to measure the flow of rain water the building collects but doesn’t use. “Storm water run-off is a growing issue in construction. Recharging the aquifer with what we cannot use is critical at CIRS,”  ?say Alberto Cayuela, Associate Director. Only about 10 per cent of all water collected is made potable. Water is collected as it flows and irrigates the green roof and passes through landscaped areas. The excess, unusable water isn’t wasted down sewers. It’s diverted into the tipping bucket. Water collects in it till it’s full and then tips, restoring it to the aquifer at sea level hundreds of feet below UBC.

“How long it takes to collect depends on our consumption and the amount of rainfall. It’s an important subject to ?study,” says John Robinson, Executive Director. “All liquid leaving the building will be better than rain when it arrived, net-positive in yet another way,” ?he says.

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UBC Reports | Vol. 57 | No. 6 | Jun. 2, 2011

A chair-sized “tipping bucket” (above) is part of a unique water treatment system that will help to make CIRS North America’s greenest building.

A chair-sized “tipping bucket” (above) is part of a unique water treatment system that will help to make CIRS North America’s greenest building.

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at CIRS, visit: www.sustain.ubc.ca

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