Perkins+Will architects used the Impact Estimator to minimize the carbon footprint of the Centre for Interactive Research in Sustainability.

ID=1533 :: post_name=centre-for-interactive-research-in-sustainability :: post_title=CIRS :: post_status=publish :: post_type=page :: post_category=Array

CIRS Building

Year: 2011
Architect: Perkins+Will
Sustainability recognition: Targeting LEED-Canada 1.0 Platinum; Targeting petal recognition with Living Building Challenge
Project location: University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada

The Centre for Interactive Research in Sustainability (CIRS) is a living lab at the University of British Columbia. CIRS is an internationally recognized research institution that accelerates the adoption of sustainable building technologies and sustainable urban development practices in society. As an expression of that vision, the building was designed to be the most innovative and high performance building in North America at the time of its construction.

Life cycle assessment was used to –

  • Assess the impacts of different structural systems
  • Assess the impacts of different cladding systems
  • Measure the construction carbon footprint of CIRS

LCA was used during the schematic design phase to select among structural and cladding options. The goal was to achieve a carbon-neutral system. Athena Institute staff helped the architectural team in the use of the Impact Estimator for this task. Athena software was used again during the construction phase, to prepare documentation for a LEED-Canada Innovation Credit on LCA and Living Building Challenge certification on carbon footprint.

LCA has been embraced by the project owner (the University of British Columbia) from the beginning. LCA helped support the business case for the building, particularly with respect to carbon taxes applicable to this building under local regulations. The university also used LCA to examine IT infrastructure options for the building before installing a system.

Other Sustainable Features:

ENERGY. CIRS is supplied by energy generated on-site and from renewable energy sources, achieving net-positive energy and GHG neutrality. Features include: captured waste heat from a nearby building; on-site fuel cells; a photovoltaic array; solar hot water collectors; ground source heat pumps; glazing treatment that ensures solar heat gain/loss is minimized for each orientation; and a living solar screen that acts as a dynamic shading device and responds to seasonal change.

WATER. CIRS captures, stores, and reuses all stormwater and rainwater on site from exterior and interior building process loads, eliminating the facility’s dependence on municipal infrastructure. Features include: a rainwater collection system; ultra low water fixtures; grey and blackwater treatment; and stormwater collection and treatment.

RESOURCE CONSERVATION. CIRS is designed as an adaptable and flexible structure, using a demountable structure that is constructed from precast concrete and wood that allows easy deconstruction and material recovery. It employs resource-efficient materials that are renewable, recyclable and durable. Materials made from sustainably harvested, local and recycled-content sources are used throughout the facility.

HEALTH AND WELLBEING. The U-shaped building massing contributes to the goal of 100% natural daylight and ventilation for all inhabitants. The project incorporates operable windows, maximizes natural daylight, and uses zero and low-emitting materials to address the health and wellbeing of building occupants.

BUILDING OPERATIONS AND MAINTENANCE. A 1000-point monitoring system provides continuous feedback on water and energy consumption, natural ventilation rates, daylight and artificial illumination levels, airflow and air change rates, oxygen and carbon dioxide levels, and surface mass and air temperature in all areas of the building. Feedback gathered from this system enables researchers, facility managers and other partners to refine the operation and maintenance of individual systems and the entire facility.

CONTINUOUS OUTREACH AND EDUCATION. In addition to putting sustainable systems on display and educating visitors, a Technical Manual and website ( further disseminate information, with lesson learned, on-going updates and actual performance data from the project. The process of creating CIRS has reshaped UBC’s vision for its campus and its role as an institution; the results from CIRS are helping move the world toward a more sustainable future.


Photos courtesy of Perkins+Will.