- System Description
- Campus Context
- Goals and Targets
- Lessons Learned
- Future Learning
Image 7.1 CIRS viewed from the corner of West Mall and Sustainability Street. The Solar Aquatics System is housed in the glass volume at the corner.
Photograph by Martin Tessler
Many drivers were considered in the design of CIRS, including site conditions, microclimate, surrounding context, accessibility of the site and campus, building program, inhabitant comfort, circulation, and construction. While CIRS itself had to be a sustainable building the CIRS mission is to accelerate sustainability in society, so creating a building that was both high-performance and replicable was a priority. To be replicable, the construction cost of the building also needed to be within an acceptable range of conventional lab building construction cost, even though the project scope included innovative and comprehensive building systems, processes and resources well beyond the scope of any conventional buildings. Additionally, UBC wanted a building that made efficient use of the space on the site, was flexible enough to accommodate changing tenants and their different needs throughout its life, and provided an auditorium and storage space that would serve the wider campus community. All of these considerations led the project team to decide on a simple building form utilizing conventional construction methods. Balancing all of these drivers created a framework for design decisions that shaped the form and character of the CIRS building.
The form of CIRS was driven by the programmatic needs of the building, the desire to maximize the use of passive environmental design strategies and by the constraints and opportunities of the site. The design team arranged the building as a four storey ‘U’ shape, open to the east, surrounding a large Auditorium. The arms of the U are two long blocks containing office and lab spaces on the upper floors and connected by an atrium along the western side of the building. The main floor contains the key public areas of this project, such as the lobby/ atrium, the Modern Green Development Auditorium and the Loop Café, as well as the sustainable research oriented BC Hydro Theatre and the Policy Lab.
The southwest corner, where West Mall and Sustainability Street connect, is the most visible part of the building. At ground level, this corner is anchored by the Solar Aquatics reclaimed water system. Isolated in a glass room, it is divided from the remainder of the ground floor by a pedestrian path and is a highly visible example of the innovative sustainable strategies employed at CIRS. One highly visible expression of sustainability is the living wall, a vegetated screen shading the western façade, as CIRS terminates the view along West Mall from the north. The leaves of the chocolate vine (Akebia quinata) climbing the screen will change throughout the year in colour and density before falling in the winter, providing a naturally varying amount of shade.
The CIRS site is at the corner of West Mall and Sustainability Street on the UBC Vancouver campus, at the edge of the Campus Core precinct. There are no explicit property lines on the UBC campus, so the site is defined as being bounded by the Campus and Community Planning building to the north, a service lane to the east, the edge of the sidewalk of Sustainability Street to the south, and the edge of the sidewalk of West Mall to the west. The overall site area is 2,008 square meters. Placing the 5675 square meter structure on this site resulted in a Floor Space Ratio (FSR) of 2.7. The long-range plan for this zone of campus seeks to increase the development density by raising the FSR between 2.5 and 3.0.
The building has an urban relationship to the site, as the outside edge of the building extends almost to the parcel edge on all sides to create the necessary density and to increase the visibility of the project. West Mall is slightly angled at the southwestern side of the site, when compared to the rest of the campus grid. Building CIRS out to the edge of the street creates a distinctive view of the building looking north or south along West Mall and creates an opportunity to provide rain protection through overhangs along the pedestrian paths of Sustainability Street and West Mall.
The character of the Campus Core precinct is relatively quiet, comprised of a mix of laboratories and campus service buildings. Street life is intensifying as the number of residential projects in this end of campus increases. The long-range campus plan anticipates that service lane to the east of the site will develop into a pedestrian thoroughfare for north-south travel across campus. Two key elements of the site character are its elevation drop of approximately three meters east-to-west and its adjacency to Sustainability Street. Sustainability Street is a combined landscape and urban infrastructure project, integrating transportation infrastructure, accessible pedestrian travel, native plantings, storm water retention, bio-filtration and ground water recharge.
Previously, a short-term materials storage facility with a footprint of approximately 925 square meters operated by UBC Classroom Services, occupied the site. The UBC Campus Plan had called for the relocation of the storage function to UBC’s South Campus. However, the CIRS building reproduced much of the storage function on site by expanding the partial basement into a full basement.
Image 7.2 Building Massing Options
The form and character of the CIRS building was one of the most interesting discussions during the design process. One argument was that an organic, curving form was most appropriate for a sustainable building, while another viewed favoured a rectilinear, orthogonal form. One compelling argument for the orthogonal form of the building was that by using a simple construction system the project is more replicable as the lessons from CIRS could be applied to buildings that are more conventional. The project team ultimately found the form of CIRS through a careful consideration of all the design drivers including the inhabitant needs, environmental conditions, physical surroundings, the construction system and materials, and the economic constraints.
The overall massing of CIRS is a U-shape, four storeys high, surrounding a single level Auditorium on the ground level. The shape and orientation were driven by the goal of having the regularly occupied spaces of the building be 100 per cent daylit and naturally ventilated. The arms of the U-shape, where the office and labs are located, are narrow floor plates with glazed façades on the long north and south sides. The base of the U-shape contains the atrium, located along the western side of the site adjacent to West Mall, which connects the office blocks and the different floors. The large MGD Auditorium fills the central void of the U. The Auditorium is an open space structure, with no interior supporting columns. This structural system created a curved roof and prevented any additional floors to be built on top of it. Instead, a living roof provides an elevated landscaped courtyard at the level of the second floor.
The design incorporated site constraints and opportunities afforded by the adjacency to Sustainability Street and existing paths of pedestrian travel into the project. The accessible path from West Mall to Sustainability Street is well used by pedestrians and this important ‘desire line’ has been preserved at grade. Early sketches imagined the building dramatically cantilevered over the ‘desire line’ path. Although unattainable given the chosen structural system, this spirit has been preserved through locating the Solar Aquatics System at the southeast corner of the building. Pedestrians pass between this clear glazed box filled with aquatic plants and the entry façade of the building as they walk along the ‘desire line’.
Image 7.4 Diagram of CIRS East-West Section
Image 7.4 Diagram of CIRS East-West Section
The sloped topography of the site presents both challenges and opportunities. The main challenge lies in resolving the different grade heights over a total rise of almost three meters, including along the key public southern façade along Sustainability Street. The MGD Auditorium takes advantage of this slope to accommodate the raked seating. The rake naturally follows the slope of the site topography and allows for at-grade exiting at both the front and back of the Theatre. The lower roof level of the Auditorium, compared to the surrounding office blocks, allows for increased daylight in to those spaces. Additionally, it allows for more daylight to the service lane and Fine Arts Annex Building on the adjacent property to the east.
The atrium connecting the two main bars creates a street wall along West Mall, ensuring an engaging urban presence along this well-trafficked route. The main entrance to the building is located here and the grades in front are resolved with broad steps and an accessible ramp following the pre-existing pedestrian ‘desire line’.
The challenging grade on the south side of the building along Sustainability Street is resolved through several strategic moves. The Lobby and most of the Loop Café are kept at a uniform elevation and a raised platform in the cafe aligns with an at-grade patio on Sustainability Street, creating a seamless indoor-outdoor flow-through. The ground floor washrooms are down a short ramp to the east of the café. This small grade change provides enough room to stack the loading dock on top of the washrooms, making a virtue of the site’s steep topography.
Image 7.5 CIRS Atrium Space. Photograph by Enrico Dagostini
Public interaction and demonstration spaces are part of the mandate of CIRS to create an environment for interactive research that includes participation from the public and partnerships with public and private sector agencies and manufacturers.
The entry lobby serves as the principle orientation space for visitors to CIRS. On the lowest level of the atrium, it functions as a demonstration area where visitors can obtain an understanding of both CIRS and the research conducted in the building. The lobby also features an interactive display and exhibit area that introduces the CIRS project to visitors. A series of display screens illustrate data on total UBC campus and CIRS water and energy consumption as a means of promoting awareness of sustainability. A donor wall honours the many groups that have aided the creation of CIRS throughout the years.
A central atrium along the western side of the building unites the primary office/lab blocks and different floors of CIRS. The atrium acts as a social condenser with a public processional stair and common areas with kitchenettes on the upper floors provide spaces for informal interaction between researchers, students and visitors. The entire CIRS building can be understood from the vantage point of atrium. All the main public event spaces, including the MGD Auditorium, the Loop Café, the BC Hydro theatre, the Policy Lab and the living roof, can be accessed from it, as well as the private office/lab spaces. The major building systems can be seen from it, including the exposed wood structural system, the different types of exterior cladding, the reclaimed water treatment system, the rainwater harvesting system, the photovoltaic cells and the solar hot water array. The photovoltaic cells on the roof above the skylight and the living wall on the west façade cast shifting shadows through the space. The operable windows and stack effect move air through the space. The atrium is the heart, lungs and soul of CIRS.
Modern Green Development Auditorium
Directly off the lobby is a 450-seat auditorium, the largest on campus. Operated by Classroom Services, the Modern Green Auditorium brings in audiences from throughout the University community as well as the public, providing wide exposure to the CIRS sustainability agenda. A living roof over the Auditorium functions as an upper level courtyard and landscaped commons area, featuring native plantings, for building inhabitants and visitors.
A café emphasizing “100-mile diet” choices is located on the ground floor in the southwest corner adjacent to Sustainability Street. The café provides an essential meeting area where visitors and building occupants can interact in an informal setting over food. Patrons can make use of indoor or outdoor seating, enjoying views of Sustainability Street and the Solar Aquatics System.
BC Hydro Theatre
The group decision environment is a space for collaboration and interactive digital visualization. It is supported by a computer and server framework that allows participants to input their specialized content (from basic presentations to 3D models and visual simulations), manipulate it in real-time, and display it in a number of ways. It is capable of reconfiguration to accommodate a variety of uses, including large interactive presentations, small group workshops and environmental immersion capabilities. The Theatre is accessible to CIRS inhabitants and other research groups at UBC, as well as external professionals, government organizations and the public.
The Policy Lab accommodates large groups for workshops, focus groups and research into community engagement. It is equipped with a multi-screen configuration and video-conferencing systems.
Building Monitoring and Assessment Lab
The Building Monitoring and Assessment Lab (BMAL) is a facility dedicated to studying the performance of building systems and components and the inhabitant engagement with the building. The CIRS Operations Centre, the control centre for the building and its systems, is located within it. Through extensive instrumentation and monitoring, the entire CIRS facility serves as a “living laboratory” to study how sustainable building technologies can learn from a building’s inhabitants, and how its inhabitants can learn from the building. The BMAL and the CIRS Operations Centre are where the research projects and technology changes that optimize the building systems are coordinated.
There are three main elements to design of the façades of CIRS. The first major element is a curtain wall system composed of horizontal bands of aluminium framed glazing interspersed with bands of cedar panels. The glazing portion contains manually operable windows, allowing both light and air into the building, and is shaded by aluminium horizontal louvers supporting photovoltaic cells. The natural stained cedar covers the structural spandrel panels. On the western façade of the building, facing West Mall, is mounted a vegetated shading screen. The living wall is planted with a deciduous vines with foliage that changes throughout the year. The leaves grow thick during the summer months providing more shade and drop during the winter allowing more sunlight into the atrium. The leaves change colour over the course of the year, creating a dynamic public face to the CIRS building.
The second major element is a ribbon of glazed curtain wall that rings the two main public frontages at grade, creating an open and inviting presence at street level. The vision glass creates a visual connection between the activities in the lobby and the Loop café, as well as the Solar Aquatic System.
The final element of the façade is a white concrete brick that clads the stair cores at the southeast, northeast and northwest corners of the building. This ground face, speckled brick echoes the glazed ceramic brick of the Buchanan Complex and other iconic campus buildings dating from the mid-twentieth century. Locally produced, it is a modern interpretation of the traditional white masonry cladding in the Campus Core precinct. The monolithic brick face of the stair cores is perforated with punched windows to allow daylight into the stairs and views out to the surroundings.
Image 7.7 CIRS Façade Treatment. Photograph by Enrico Dagostini.
7.4 Campus Context
UBC regulations regarding the design of new buildings are objective rather than prescriptive. This allowed for flexibility in the design of CIRS as it developed in response to changing programmatic requirements and research agendas in conjunction with the refinement of passive strategies, material choices and design of building systems.
UBC Design Guidelines
UBC Vancouver Campus Design Guidelines provide direction for the design of new projects on campus, with specific details for each character district (Campus Core, Forest Edge, Contemporary and Athletic). At a campus wide scale, all academic buildings should reinforce a unique sense of place, display the research and activities occurring within, emphasize sustainable design strategies, have a cohesive relationship with the surrounding landscapes, and create a dynamic relationship between the interior social inhabitation and the exteriors activities and movement.
Best practices of all aspects of sustainable design - ecological, economic, and social - are emphasized. Sustainable designs should:
- Manage resource consumption.
- Strive to have a positive ecological impact.
- Be cost-effective in construction and operations.
- Include work, recreation and social spaces that bring together members of the campus community.
- Embrace passive strategies (including massing, orientation and façade treatments) to maximize daylight and natural ventilation. For example, CIRS uses a U-shaped massing and long, glazed façades on the north and south for daylight and ventilation.
- Arrange interior spaces and activities strategically in relation to the building façades and surrounding microclimate. CIRS, for example, has the atrium, which can handle a wider range of lighting levels and interior temperatures, along the west façade, where it is most difficult to control in terms of solar and heat gain.
All building must strive for a standard of LEED™ Gold or equivalent. The intent of CIRS is to achieve LEED Platinum and to be the first UBC building to be certified through Living Building Challenge.
CIRS is located on the edge of the Campus Core district. This district is between East Mall and West Mall and extends from Thunderbird Boulevard in the south to Crescent Road in the north. It retains some of the original 1914 campus master plan layout and contains buildings in a mix of Collegiate Gothic, Arts & Crafts, International Modern and West Coast Regional styles. New projects in this district should follow the design principles of the international style modernist buildings, including rectilinear massing with a horizontal emphasis, visually open façades, light coloured and simple materials , strong relationship to landscape and of a height between four and seven stories. CIRS maintains that rectilinear composition with a simple use of materials, horizontal banding except at the three stair corners, significant amounts of glazing and a strong street presence with dynamic landscaping on both West Mall and Sustainability Street.
UBC Vancouver Campus Design Guidelines, 2.3.5 Architectural Expression (p14-16) and 2.3.10 Sustainability Best Practice in Design (p 18-20), 3.1 Campus Core District (p.45-47)
Image 7.9 White Concrete Brick on Stairtowers. Photogrpah by Enrico Dagostini.
7.3 Goals and Targets
Table 7.1 lists the project goals and targets specifically related to the building
design. Refer to Section 4.0 Goals & Targets for a complete list of project goals.
|3 – NET IMPACT||Regenerate ecosystems to attract local fauna (birds, bees, herons & butterflies).||Increase local native fauna onsite.|
|4 – POSITIVE COMMUNITY IMPACT||Maximize sustainable
contributions to the local community.
|6 - ENERGY
|Design CIRS to be as passive and simple as possible.
Design a high-performance building envelope.
|Building envelope thermal performance to average R20 (3.5 RSI).|
|11 - RESOURCE
|Make design and operation choices based on the lowest life-cycle costs.
Produce a core building
that exemplifies replicable, economical solutions.
|Maximize the intensity of use of resources for building materials.|
|13 - BUILDING
|Maximize hours of operations and density of use.||Maximize the intensity of use.|
|14- DAYLIGHTING||CIRS workspaces will be 100 per cent daylit and provide connection
to the natural world through views.
|17 – COMFORT &
|Provide areas for social interactions, physical activities and human health needs. Provide local control over comfort conditions to adapt to individual preferences.|
|18 - SEAMLESS
DESIGN & OPERATION
|The building will seamlessly integrate the design and ongoing operations.|
|21 – COMMUNITY &
|Minimize external and community environmental impacts of CIRS’s staff and visitors.|
Table 7.1 Goals & Targets for the Building Design
The design of the building benefitted the CIRS project in the following ways:
Uses Passive Strategies
The project team designed the massing, orientation and façades of CIRS to allow for 100% day-lighting and natural ventilation in all regularly occupied spaces, which reduces the consumption of natural resources and energy and provides a connection to the natural world for inhabitants.
Preserves Existing Paths of Travel
The design of the building preserves the existing pedestrian path and creates an accessible path between Sustainability Street and West Mall. The path is adjacent to the lobby and there is direct visual access from the exterior to the interior of the building. The displays on the inside of the building will communicate the CIRS mission and performance results to the pedestrians using the path.
The design of the building highlights the sustainable systems. The position of the reclaimed water system adjacent to the existing desire line puts one of the most interesting systems in a prominent position on campus. The living wall provides a focal point for views along West Mall from the north. Although the access to some of the lab and office spaces will be restricted to inhabitants only, some of the most important sustainable features of the project can be experience from within atrium by visitors to the building. The atrium is filled with daylight and the visitor will feel air moving through the space as the warmer air exhausts from the ground level to the skylight at the top of the atrium. The use of wood is expressed through the stairs and the bridges that connect the north and south wings. The living roof is also visible from the public areas of CIRS.
Acts as a Social Condenser
The atrium is the central circulation space within CIRS and it is the social centre of the project. The kitchenettes and lounge spaces in the atrium are shared common spaces that will bring inhabitants together. The project team organized the building around the atrium to encourage inhabitants to use these social spaces with the hope that these social spaces will foster discussion between the different disciplines in the building.
The design of the CIRS building was challenging to implement in the following ways:
Resolving Ambitions with Costs Constraints
The project team had to deliver a high-performance building with innovative systems within the acceptable range of costs for standard lab buildings. Some systems, like external operable solar shades and a control system for the operable windows in the office/lab blocks could not be implemented because of the budget constraints.
Balancing Design Objectives
The decision to use a wood structure was made very early in the design process and constrained some of the more elaborate possible building forms and design features. One of the early design sketches for CIRS showed the building cantilevered over the pedestrian path that existed on the site. While this dramatic form may have made CIRS more iconic and brought more attention to the project, the project team decided that the wood structural system was the most sustainable option.
Allowing Public Access while Preserving Inhabitants Privacy
To accelerate sustainable building and development, CIRS has to be a demonstration building for visitors to explore. The researchers and students within the building require privacy to perform their work. The atrium provides a public space from which people can experience and learn about the building, while maintaining the offices and labs as private workspaces.
7.7 Lessons Learned
The experienced gained through designing the CIRS building provided valuable lesson to apply to future projects. Some of the key lessons are:
Find Opportunities in the Existing Site
The design team shaped CIRS to allow pedestrians to move easily across the site. The ‘desire line’ that cuts through the project became an opportunity to highlight the reclaimed water system and engage the wider campus community with the project’s sustainability goals.
Create Simple Forms
To be replicable, lessons learned from the project needed to be applicable to other more conventional buildings. Using simple rectilinear form allowed for the use of a wood structure and kept the construction costs within an acceptable range. The spaces within the building are flexible and will be able to accommodate different uses in the future.
The public uses of CIRS, like the Loop Café, the MGD Auditorium and the central atrium bring people who may not have any interest in sustainability into the building and exposes them to the sustainable building features and research activities.
Balance Public Access and Private Needs
Spaces like the atrium in CIRS provide opportunities for the public to experience the building, while restricting access to other more private areas. The visual access through the atrium to the rest of the building communicates some of the sustainable features of the project. Displays in the lobby will communicate the performance of the project and the on-going research and advocacy efforts of the inhabitants.
Utilize Objective Based Regulations
The objective, rather than prescriptive, land use regulations and design guidelines allowed for innovation in the evolution of the design of CIRS and ultimately led to a more sustainable and higher-performing building.
Additional lessons learned over the operational life of the building will be added at periodic intervals.