The Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability (CIRS) was developed in response to the challenge of creating a more sustainable society. Its intention is to be an internationally recognized research institution that accelerates the adoption of sustainable building technologies and sustainable urban development practices in society. CIRS was designed to be the most innovative and high performance building in North America at the time of its construction. Integrated building systems, comprehensively monitored and centrally controlled, are designed to meet goals of zero carbon emissions, water self-sufficiency, net-positive energy performance and zero waste.
The ongoing research agenda at CIRS investigates the interactions of building inhabitants with a comprehensive high-performance building and the integration of education, community outreach, applied research and market-based replication. The building itself acts as a “living laboratory” that allows research and investigation of current and future sustainable building technologies, as well as the impact of inhabitant’s actions and engagement with the systems. Research on effective policies, civic engagement and group decision-making combined with advanced visualization and simulation technologies capable of communicating data through various means aid outreach efforts that encourage individuals and communities to explore a more sustainable future. Partners from private, public, and non-government organization sectors share the research facility, working with dedicated CIRS researchers to identify areas for innovation in sustainable technologies and practices and to create a springboard for their development and widespread implementation.
As a concept and a process, CIRS has been an ongoing venture since 1999. The project went through three different iterations, at different sites and with different owners and inhabitants over that time. Simultaneously, there were significant advancements in public awareness, policy and market developments, and technological capabilities relating to sustainable buildings. The dedicated leadership team maintained the strong project vision through all of these changes and ensured that the ambitious project goals would be achieved.
- The president of UBC at the time, Dr. Martha Piper, asked all the
research units on campus to develop a strategic plan for future
- Dr. John Robinson, then at the Sustainable Development Research
Initiative (now part of the Institute for Resources, the Environment and
Sustainability), proposed an idea to create a “BC Showcase”, a building
that would demonstrate sustainable principles and practices holistically.
- Dr. John Robinson met with Peter Busby, the architect, to discuss
the creation of the “greenest building in North America”. Multiple key
concepts including the “living laboratory” and “accelerating
sustainability” were developed during this meeting.
- Busby & Associates Architects prepared a feasibility study for
the first iteration of Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability,
located on UBC’s Vancouver Campus.
- The leadership team applied for the first Canada Foundation for
Innovation (CFI) grant to fund the project. It was denied.
- BC Hydro became an industry partner.
- A decision was made to move CIRS to a site on the Great Northern
- The Steering Committee was created to provide expert advice and
guidance on the project. It included representatives from local academic
institutions, government agencies, academic researchers and industry.
- Other academic institutions became partners in the project: Emily
Carr University of Art and Design, British Columbia Institute of
Technology, Simon Fraser University.
- A feasibility study was undertaken for the Great Northern Way
campus context with a new program accommodating all four academic
- The team applied for a second CFI grant.
- The team applied for a British Columbia Knowledge Development Fund
- The feasibility study was completed.
- The CFI and BCKDF grants were approved.
- A Sustainable Development Technology Canada grant was secured for
the photovoltaic cells.
- Honeywell and Haworth become industry partners.
- The CIRS project returned to a location on the UBC Vancouver
Campus, with UBC as the sole owner and under the management of UBC
- A Western Economic Diversification Canada grant was secured.
- Over the winter, the design teams responded to new Requests for
Proposals for the new project program and context.
- Four interdisciplinary design charettes were held between March and
- Schematic design began in May and transitioned to design
development in September.
- Documents for the tender set were completed in July.
- Construction documents were created between July and October.
- Site service work and demolition of the previous building occurred
over the summer.
- Construction began in October.
- Modern Green Development became an industry partner.
- Construction was completed in August.
- Building occupancy granted late August.
- Building inhabitation began in September.
- Building officially opened on November 3.