The CIRS building is a world-class showcase of green construction that celebrates its location and setting, has minimal impact on the environment and maximizes every inch of interior space to create functional and inspiring spaces for teaching, learning, research and community building.
CIRS has been designed to be net positive in seven ways: four environmental and three human.
Net positive energy and operational carbon: The building harvests and produces energy beyond its needs.
Net positive water quality: CIRS is 100 per cent dependent on rainwater and all water in the building is treated, such that the water leaving the building will be cleaner than the rain landing on the roof.
Net positive in structural carbon: CIRS sequesters about 600 tonnes of CO2e in its wood structure which is more carbon than all the carbon emitted by the construction process, and all the carbon emitted in the manufacture of all the other materials in the building.
Net positive human health, happiness and productivity: CIRS aspires to be net positive in human terms, measuring the health, productivity and happiness of everyone in the building over time, with a goal of continuous improvement.
These seven regenerative goals are at the heart of the CIRS agenda.
Presentation Boards, from 2008, show various design ideas, some of which were implemented in the final CIRS design.
Self-guided Walking Tour
Standing Outside the Main Doors
1. Note the landscaped area where stormwater run-off flows through an open
channel to an underground well and, ultimately, to the aquifer 90 metres below.
A tipping bucket (under the silver grating) measures the amount of water
flowing to the aquifer.
2. The breezeway through the corner of the building preserves a path once
used on the old site and offers walkers an up-close view of CIRS.
3. Behind the large windows in the corner lies the Solar Aquatics Biofilter. Inside are tanks filled with plants; their root systems harbour
bacteria that digest waste and cleanse the water. Reclaimed water from this
facility is used to flush toilets and urinals and to irrigate landscaped areas
such as the living roof and the living wall.
Inside the Main Doors
4. In front of you is a video wall that displays information about UBC
sustainability, CIRS energy and water use and activities in the building and on
the UBC campus.
5. On either side of the curving wall are entrances to the Modern Green
Development Auditorium, a 423-seat lecture hall that is mostly daylit and
features a stunning pine beetle-killed wood ceiling. Please do not enter the
lecture hall when classes are in session.
6. Beside the Auditorium is the BC Hydro Theatre that features
advanced visualization and interaction technologies to engage audiences in
simulations of sustainability scenarios.
7. North of the curved wall is the Sustainability Education Resource
Centre providing information on academic and co-curricular opportunities in
8. Look up to see solar photovoltaic (pv) panels, located on the skylight
above, that convert sunlight into electricity. PV panels on the south and west
façades of the building provide electricity while working as shading devices.
Energy needs are also met through reclaiming waste heat from the nearby Earth
and Ocean Sciences Building (some is returned for their use), harvesting
geothermal heat from the ground and collecting solar thermal energy to heat
9. To the south is The Loop Café where you can enjoy locally
sourced, sustainable fresh food and beverages. Take The Stairs To The Second
10. CIRS is largely constructed of wood, with a significant amount being
pine beetle-killed. The wood sequesters more carbon dioxide than the carbon
dioxide released in the construction and de-commissioning of the building.
11. On the west side of the building is the Living Wall with leafy
vines that help cool the atrium in summer with shade and, when the leaves fall
in winter, allow in sunlight and heat.
12. On the east side, a wall of glass and solid panels overlooks a Living
Roof (not open to the public) that provides a meadow environment of
indigenous plants for birds and insects. The wall’s solid panels provide shade
and insulation to reduce the building’s energy consumption. Look for ‘channels’
that run down each side of the office wings, moving rainwater that is captured
on the upper roof to a cistern in the basement where it is treated to meet the
building’s potable water needs.
13. CIRS’ site orientation optimizes its exposure to natural light, reducing
the need for electricity. The atrium design provides a chimney effect which
draws air from office spaces, improving natural ventilation throughout the
- Windows can be opened, allowing inhabitants to enjoy natural ventilation
in their areas.
- Walls are easily reconfigured to create new spaces.
- 100 per cent of all occupants have access to natural light.
- Access to the building’s management system allows each inhabitant to
control personal lighting, air flow and temperature preferences.