University of British Columbia (with Stantec and Perkins + Will)
Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability (CIRS)
Project lead: UBC: Alberto Cayuola, Stantec: Jimmy Ng, Perkins +Will: 2012 Clean16 Honouree, Peter Busby

Going beyond minimizing impact, CIRS is a net energy and water producer, treats waste on site, and is GHG emissions neutral: dramatic evidence of the role building design can play in a cleaner future for Canada.

The concept of regenerative sustainability implies that the way forward is to achieve a positive human impact on natural environment as opposed to simply making our activities “less bad.” The CIRS building was envisioned as the embodiment of this concept, proof that buildings can actually make a positive contribution to sustainability.

The vision: a building net-positive in energy and water quality and in embodied and operational carbon emissions, that facilitates an increase in human productivity, health and happiness. That the project took 10 years to complete is not surprising.

Today, hydrogen fuel-cell technology generates 70% of the CIRS building’s estimated power requirements. Rooftop photovoltaic panels supply an additional 20% during peak hours.

Solar panels cast a shadow down the three stories about the CIRS’ atrium lobby. Sunlight supplies about 60 percent of the building’s demand for hot water heating

A central atrium space was designed to function as the heart of the natural ventilation system. A recovery system redistributes excess heat to adjacent buildings. Raised floors, cooling chimneys and indoor plants help with cleaning and cooling the inside air. Rainwater from the building’s eco-roof is collected and stored in a basement cistern, filtered and re-distributed as the main source of drinking water. A green roof and living walls enhance the building’s aesthetic appeal, provide habitat for wildlife and help regulate temperature and lightning inside the building.

A green roof provides additional insulation to the structure beneath, reducing heating and cooling costs

UBC’s new 4,500-square-meter wood-and-glass centre opened its doors in 2011. Inside, two rectangular, four-storey office spaces are divided by a 500-seat lecture hall and a south-facing atrium connecting the two office blocks on each floor.

The CIRS building viewed from the corner of West Mall and Sustainability Street on the UBC campus.

Innovative sustainable design features enable CIRC to meet the goals of zero carbon emissions, water self-sufficiency, net-positive energy performance and zero waste.

For information about the CIRC, please visit