Five ways UTown@UBC is innovating sustainability

How do theoretical concepts of sustainability translate into real-world changes? One way is to use UTown@UBC, UBC’s on-campus residential community, as a “Living Lab” for testing sustainable practices.

Throughout the planning and construction of UTown@UBC, the University has developed a number of innovative sustainable practices. Here are five examples of sustainability in action.

Green Streets

“Green streets are similar to conventional streets, but instead of cars, they are designed for pedestrians or people on bicycles or other non-motorized vehicles,” explains Joe Stott, director of planning at Campus and Community Planning (C+CP).

In Wesbrook Place, South Campus’ latest development, green streets alternate with car streets to create a network that encourages walking, cycling and alternative modes of transportation, as well as increasing green space. The green streets are lined with sidewalks, while bicycle paths run along the central area. Treed boulevards on either side separate the pathways.

“Residents who live in the buildings along these green streets get to their front doors by walking through the streets, which helps animate the area,” says Stott. “They will become centres for all sorts of activities, including relaxation.”

 Storm water – waste not, want not

“Wesbrook Place takes a very different and more sustainable approach to stormwater management,” explains Siu Tse, associate director, infrastructure and services planning at C+CP. “The green streets include a waterway and a greenway through the village, which is fed by storm water.”

Streets are designed to harness storm water as a resource instead of draining it away. The water flows on the surface through the green streets and creates a small lake, which can then be used for irrigation or for water features. This cuts down the neighbourhood’s demand for high-quality, potable water and minimizes the amount that gets discharged into the Fraser River.

REAP: a sustainable building code

Good water management is also a feature of the Residential Environmental Assessment Program or REAP, the university’s homegrown green building standard. All developers who build residences at UTown@UBC must apply REAP standards to their projects. Since Version 2.0 of REAP was launched in 2006, 926 family housing units have been developed to REAP Gold standards in eight buildings.

REAP was developed in consultation with academic and operational staff because the LEED system, the benchmark for environmental building design, was not appropriate for four-storey wood frame residential construction.

“We’re working to improve REAP all the time,” says Kyle Reese, community energy manager in UBC’s campus sustainability office. “We’re working on Version 3.0 now. It was time to raise the bar. That was our aim when we created REAP— to be a leader.”

REAP standards aim for reductions in total building water usage, providing high efficiency fixture requirements inside each home and high performance irrigation for each building.

Yu: Innovative design for saving energy

Yu, a residential development planned for Wesbrook Place, is a partnership between Chinese property developer Modern Green and UBC. “UBC is doing something rarely seen in Vancouver,” explains Reese. “The development has a courtyard but no internal corridors—all the walkways to get to the individual apartments are outdoor. This can lead to significant energy savings. And all the apartments are day-lit, with natural ventilation.”

Yu is also adapting its heating system for the future use of waste energy from another source—waste heat produced by TRIUMF, Canada’s National Laboratory for Particle and Nuclear Physics. This concept is already at work for residents living atop the Save-On-Foods in Wesbrook Place; the store’s refrigeration units’ waste heat generates hot water for the apartments above.

Compost: From kitchen scraps to garden beds

UTown@UBC is home to Greater Vancouver’s first residential compost program for multi-family homes.

“The program is a partnership between UBC and the University Neighbourhoods Association (UNA),” explains Ralph Wells, sustainability manager at the UNA. “It has now been expanded to reach more than 1,200 homes in 19 multi-family buildings. In 2010, more than 60,000 kg of home organics were diverted from the waste stream and turned into compost.”

Organic waste is then processed in UBC’s “in-vessel” composter, which only takes 14 days. The highly nutritive soil created from the composting process is used for UBC landscaping, as well as at the local community gardens.

UBC will participate in the GLOBE 2012 conference on business and the environment.

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