LCA supports renewal over rebuild of UBC Biosciences
Sustainability Recognition: LEED Gold; 2012 SAB Award
Design Team: Acton Ostry Architects, Read Jones Christoffersen, MCW Consultants
Location: Vancouver, Canada
Getting more life out of existing buildings is a strong sustainability tactic and a priority for the University of British Columbia. The UBC Biosciences Complex, an outdated 1957 building, was a candidate for replacement. Instead, a 2011 upgrade will extend its life at least 40 more years. We collaborated with Recollective Consulting to perform life cycle assessment to quantify the environmental benefit of rehabilitation over demolition and building new.
This project is part of UBC Renew, a program that aims to minimize the financial and environmental impact of construction on campus, by supporting rehabilitation of existing buildings. UBC Renew has renovated eleven projects to date, with substantial environmental savings.
The Biosciences project included upgrades to two wings of the complex for better functionality, energy and water efficiency, and many other improvements. Reducing embodied environmental burdens was a major driver for this renewal project. By renovating rather than building new, UBC avoided the consumption of 4 million liters of water, 24,000 gigajoules of fossil fuels, and 13,000 tonnes of materials. On average across various LCA metrics, the renovated building has 60% less impact than a replacement building.
UBC Renew projects have additional benefits, including much faster construction time than building new, which means the university has access to newly functional spaces quicker. Plus, costs are typically one-third less than building new. “Every third building is free”, says Mike Champion, Associate Director with UBC Project Services. UBC Renew is “doing the right thing – why recreate it if you can reuse it”, says Mike.