2012 SAB Awards Winning Project - Biological Sciences Building University of British Columbia, Vancouver


The mandate of the University of British Columbia Renew program is to modernize, rather than replace, out-dated and obsolete buildings. By rehabilitating old structures, substantial reductions in raw materials, energy inputs, and pollutants are achieved – more than any replacement ‘green’ building could accomplish.

Artificial daylighting is based on T5 fluorescent lamps and programmed-start ballasts. Cooper Lighting provided lighting and lighting controls. Using a Strobic Air fume exhaust system, the challenge in the laboratory environment was to minimize rooftop exhaust penetrations, make heat recovery more economic and ensure high up-flow air exit velocities.

The $47-million, 170,000 sq. ft. project now houses state-of- the-art laboratories, aquaria, research spaces, classrooms, offices and gathering spaces for the Departments of Botany and Zoology.

The all-new mechanical systems include a comprehensive energy-scavenging hydronic heating/cooling system, variable flow lab exhaust, natural ventilation for private offices, and an aquatic life-support system. Electrical services include emergency power systems to protect ongoing research, state-of-the-art networking, and advanced lighting systems that include a prototype daylight-harvesting system developed at UBC.

UBC required the project to achieve LEED Gold certification, which was very challenging due to the intensive demands of laboratory buildings. The new mechanical systems were designed to connect to a new campus-wide low-temperature district hot water system that is currently under construction.

HVAC systems for laboratories typically demand 100% outside air supply to preserve a safe and healthy indoor environment. The existing standard for labs at UBC is 10 air changes per hour. Computational fluid dynamic modelling demonstrated that a safe environment could be maintained with eight air changes per hour with cross-lab air delivery and provide significant energy savings.

Laboratory services were designed with interconnected air systems to provide redundancy for space environment requirements and experiments. Lab exhaust systems utilize state-of-the-art, mixed-flow dilution fans connected to multiple fume hoods fitted with occupancy sensors to optimize flow rates. With over 25 fume hoods in the building, the challenge was to minimize rooftop exhaust penetrations, make heat recovery more economic, and ensure high up-flow air exit velocities. Numeric modelling of airflow patterns confirmed the performance and safety for this system.

Artificial daylighting is based on T5 fluorescent lamps and programmed-start ballasts. Extensive design analysis achieved 75 foot-candles at all lab benches while staying below stringent LEED energy densities. LED downlighting is used in informal meeting spaces and compact fluorescent pot lights are used where aesthetic considerations and higher light levels are required. Lighting is controlled with time-of-day scheduling and occupancy sensor system overrides.

Existing fixed, single-glazed windows were replaced with new, operable, double-glazed windows, and existing solid spandrel panels were replaced with clear glazing to increase natural daylighting. Interior walls of offices facing corridors are translucent glass to improve daylight penetration.

The project incorporates a demonstration of the Core Sunlighting Technology developed at UBC. The system uses miniature solar-tracking mirrors that collect and funnel sunlight deep inside buildings where it is delivered from light-guides that resemble traditional light fixtures. The prototype system is operating seamlessly with the building lighting system and will be used for data collection and further refinement of the technology.

Early energy models revealed that much of the building heating requirements could be met from waste process heat from research equipment. The mechanical plant was designed as a closed-loop heat pump system providing simultaneous heating and cooling in one interconnected system. Heat is recovered from interior zones, environmental chambers, freezer farms, process equipment, and the laboratory exhaust systems. A modular heat pump system continually draws energy from these sources and transfers it to the low temperature heating water loop. When the heat output from the heat pumps is insufficient, additional heat is provided by steam heat exchangers.

The LCA for this project revealed that renovating, rather than building new, would translate into reduced energy consumption equal to approximately 4 million litres of water, 16 tonnes of coal, 280,000m3 of natural gas and 120,000 litres of crude oil. Energy-efficient systems used in the building will save approximately $1 million in utility costs every five years.

Projects credits:

  • Client  University of British Columbia
    Architect  Acton ostry Architects Inc.
    Structural Engineer  Read Jones Christoffersen Ltd.
    Mechanical/electrical engineers  MCW Consultants Ltd.
    Civil Engineer  Aplin & Martin Consultants Ltd.
    Landscape Architect  Phillips Farevaag Smallenberg Inc.
    Geotechnical Engineer  Trow Associates Inc.
    Building Envelope Consultant  Read Jones Christoffersen Ltd.
    Commissioning Agent  Western Mechanical Services [1977] Ltd.
    Sustainability Consultant  Recollective
    General Contractor  Scott Construction Ltd.
    Photos  Martin Tessler

Project performance

  • - Energy intensity [building and process energy] = 2,386 MJ/m2/year
    - Energy savings relative to reference building under NMECB = 41%
    - Potable water consumption from municipal sources = 4,070 L/occupant/year
    - Potable water savings relative to reference building = 46%
    - Reclaimed and recycled materials by value = 24%
    - Regional materials [800km radius] = 42%

Jury comments: As a renovation this project set the design team the more challenging goal of revitalizing an unprepossessing existing building. Most striking was the use of an innovative solar tracking daylighting system, a courageous application of a new technology that, with judicious reconfiguration of the plan, brings natural light to most major spaces in the building. As such, the Biological Sciences Centre provides an example of how publicly-funded projects can be used to demonstrate the effectiveness and transferability of new technologies, so mitigating private sector risk
and liability.


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