29. Canada's greenest building

Tags: Energy Efficiency, Geothermal, Renewable Energy, Solar

Published February 1, 2013

Blog: This could be the greenest building in Canada

While some buildings feature stylish fountains out front, the Center for Interactive Sustainability at UBC features a slick looking glass enclosed waste treatment center.

The Center for Interactive Research on Sustainability, or CIRS, building on the University of British Columbia campus is a building that nearly lives and breathes. This four-story, 60,000 square feet structure practically pulses with life compared to its cold, clammy, inanimate cousins.

It’s a $37-million living laboratory that aims to be more than just a place to go to class or do research. It’s going after LEED Platinum status, but that is the common, humdrum points-based green building certification program that everyone and their mom knows about. They’re also pursuing a Living Building Challenge certification. This certification is so hard to get, there are only three certified living buildings in the world.

A living building is scrupulous in its materials choices and waste diversion and recycling practices during construction and is self-sufficient in water, electricity, heat and waste treatment.

Water, water everywhere

Alberto Cayuelo is the associate director of the UBC Sustainability Initiative and the CIRS building.  When he talks about the building he talks about its regenerative nature and the positive relationships it has with the environment around it.


Podcast: UBC's Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability (CIRS) is a living laboratory for green buildings

CKUA logo

Alive is not a word you use to describe buildings very often but this four-story 60,000 square foot building on the UBC campus in Vancouver is practically a living, breathing creature. It treats its own waste, it interacts symbiotically with its neighbors and it even gathers and cleans all of its own drinking water. Learn about what might be the greenest building in Canada this week on our podcast. 

Quick Facts

From their website 

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 resources relate to this episode. They may be helpful in many ways, but we list them only for your information. This is not an endorsement of any of these programs, services or organizations and we make no guarantees about the products or services these companies or organizations may offer.

Living Building Challenge 2.1

The Living Building Challenge is an attempt to raise the bar. It defines the most advanced measure of
sustainability in the built environment possible today and acts to diminish the gap between current limits
and ideal solutions.  GO >

Tags: Energy Efficiency, Renewable Energy

CIRS building overview

Every detail you can imagine about the greenest building in Canada. From ventilation to lighting to building materials this link has it all.  GO >

Tags: Energy Efficiency, Renewable Energy

CIRS Introductory video

The University of British Columbia has opened the most sustainable building in North Amercia, a $37-million "living laboratory" that will help to regenerate the environment and advance research and innovation on global sustainability challenges.

GO >

Tags: Energy Efficiency, Renewable Energy


Gallery of the CIRS building from UBC - Flickr

CIRS introductory video - Youtube

Keynote address by David Suzuki at the University of British Columbia's Celebrating CIRS - Youtube 

Press release issued by UBC when the CIRS building opened - UBC

The About page of the Living Building Challenge website - LBC