Going green abroad

Students learn through partnership with China’s top green building developer

A unique internship experience gave three UBC engineering students the chance to get out of their labs and off the continent this summer.

The graduate students went to China to learn from the country’s top green building developers, Modern Green Development, a partner with UBC’s Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability (CIRS). The students were asked to use their engineering knowledge to improve or develop new technologies to make buildings more sustainable.

“It’s good to use your knowledge and apply it to real-life scenarios,” says Jingmei Li, a PhD candidate in mechanical engineering, who spent her summer working at Modern Green’s Beijing office.

Modern Green has developed more than 10-million square-metres of green buildings in China and Australia, using geothermal heating, energy-saving technologies and other sustainable building practices. It is currently building its first development in Canada, Yu, on UBC’s South Campus.

Earlier this year, Modern Green made a contribution of $3.5 million to UBC to establish a research partnership with the university. As a result, UBC students can intern at Modern Green to learn how the company takes research from the lab and puts it to use in designing new green buildings.

Li, who is originally from China and who had studied heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems for her master’s degree there, used this work to help design and consider different options for radiant cooling, a system that cools down living spaces by absorbing heat from a room.

“Now that I have some experience working in the industry, I have more confidence in my research and how I can apply it,” says Li, who wants to work in the field once she has completed her PhD studies next year.

Modern Green is among a growing number of industry partners collaborating with UBC on sustainability solutions. UBC has partnered with Honeywell, Haworth and BC Hydro for the CIRS project, and Nexterra Power Systems Corp. and General Electric Co. for UBC’s Bioenergy Research and Demonstration Project, which is the first biomass-gas-fueled, combined heat-and-power generation system of its kind.

These collaborations help UBC achieve its sustainability goals while giving partners the opportunity to collaborate with researchers and students and test innovations at a community scale.

Ming Bai, a master’s student in electrical engineering, had never studied or worked in the field of sustainability, but spent his summer with Modern Green researching how to reduce energy use in houses and implement metering systems that increase consumers’ awareness of their energy consumption.

Bai, who had visited Beijing before, noticed that the city had changed and that it was working hard to make things more sustainable. He is now interested in pursuing engineering work opportunities including sustainable building design.

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