2015 Award Winning Project: Earth Sciences Building

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A highly energy-efficient building that is also exemplary in its use of new wood products and technology. The facades are nuanced in their response to solar orientation and views, and the interiors are warm, welcoming and beautifully lit. The project expresses its intentions very clearly in the arrangement of its program, the transparency of its activities and the high level of refinement in its detailing.

Located on the Point Grey campus of the University of British Columbia, and shared between the Department of Earth, Ocean & Atmosphere, the Department of Statistics, the Pacific Institute for the Mathematical Sciences, the Dean of Science, and the Pacific Museum of the Earth, the Earth Sciences Building [ESB] provides valuable opportunities for shared learning and collaboration. The building contains teaching, lab and office space, and three lecture theatres.

ESB was designed to reflect UBC’s dedication to advancing sustainability by reducing the environmental footprint  associated with the construction and operation of the building. New wood products and technologies are an integral part of this strategy. The five-storey complex is organized into two wings linked by an atrium with a free-floating, cantilevered, glulam-composite staircase. The academic wing and the atrium use wood as the primary structural material. The use of glulam beams and columns in a five-storey building, the hybrid wood composite floor panels, significant CLT elements and an elegant cantilevered glulam staircase make ESB a unique project in Canada, effectively raising the bar for the use of wood in large-scale, high-performance buildings.

The ESB plays a vital role in reinforcing the campus public realm along Main Mall. Visual access to the laboratory space in the building from the exterior and the ground level cafe, invite the campus into the space. Directly accessible from Fairview Square to the south, serving building users and passersby, the cafe animates the space, creating a destination and focal point for the commons.
The landscape was designed to cope with the seasonal weather patterns of Vancouver. While there is significant rain in the winter, drought conditions occur in the summer. Plant species were selected for their drought-tolerance and adaptability.  Eleven mature oak trees along Main Mall, were carefully preserved.

ESB maximizes occupant connection to the outdoors. Offices are arranged along the perimeter of the building on a narrow floor plate offering operable windows and views to the exterior. The offices not connected to the exterior look onto the natural light-filled atrium. All lecture theatres and below grade laboratory areas are also daylit. To further support comfort, wellbeing and productivity the occupants can adjust ventilation, lighting and temperature.

In addition to a high-efficiency envelope and high-performance glazing, close attention was given to optimizing daylight and minimizing the need for artificial lighting, while controlling glare and heat gain. Each elevation of the building has been treated with integrated solar shading devices suitable to the direction it faces. The East facade has vertical translucent laminated glass fins, angled for maximum glare control, and the South and West facades have external, overhang horizontal shades and interior blinds to regulate light levels and heat gain.

Mechanical systems include a displacement ventilation system and radiant slabs for heating of perimeter zones in the office areas. Multi-occupant spaces are equipped with CO2 sensors to control outdoor air, and the labs are supplied with ventilation air through a constant volume reheat system, using VAV boxes to reduce ventilation rates at night. Waste heat is also recovered from the lab fume hood exhausts and used as pre-heat. The plant-side mechanical systems consist of two heat recovery chillers in a Thermenex setup.
Wood is the primary construction material for the academic wing, and concrete for the lab wing. Using wood was a strategic decision to express the local vernacular, and to demonstrate the potential of this renewable resource to reduce the environmental footprint of larger and taller construction. According to the ATHENA EcoCalculator, the net reduction in t.CO2eq/m2 is 47% compared to conventional concrete construction.

The ESB is designed for a service life exceeding 60 years. The design team followed the recommendations  of  CSA S478-95 [R-2001] Guideline on Durability in Buildings.  Accordingly, the building’s structure includes large spans to allow for flexibility in reconfiguring layout and program over the long-term.  In addition, wood products are also easily reclaimed or  recycled into other products at the end of their service life.

As an institution, UBC is dedicated to advancing sustainability through programs that address its own operations and infrastructure, and generate long-term environmental, social and economic benefits. The ESB is now part of the campus Green Building tour, a component of a larger education program that aims to use buildings as tangible illustrations of the University’s long-term commitment to sustainability.

Project Credits
UBC Properties Trust
Perkins+Will Canada
Construction Manager
Bird Construction
Landscape Architect
Eckford Tyacke + Associates
Civil Engineer
Core Group Consultants
Electrical Engineer
Acumen Engineering
Mechanical Engineer
Stantec Consulting
Structural Engineer
Equilibrium Consulting Inc.
Martin Tessler

Project Performance
Energy intensity [building and process energy] =
Energy intensity reduction relative to reference building under MNECB =
Potable water consumption reduction relative to reference building =
Reclaimed and recycled materials by value =
Regional materials [800km radius] =
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