'Living lab' designed to be the most sustainable building in North America
Completed in August 2011, the Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability (CIRS) is designed to be the most sustainable building in North America and one of the few worldwide considered a regenerative building. Located at University of British Columbia in Vancouver, CIRS houses researchers from private, public and non-government organisation sectors, who work collaboratively toward a common mission: to accelerate sustainability. Furthermore, researchers study user interactions with the facility to improve building performance and maximise inhabitant health and well-being.
CIRS maximises passive environmental strategies and demand reduction, and puts sustainable systems on display. The 5,675-sq-m ‘living lab’ is organised around two four-storey wings, linked by an atrium that serves as a building lobby, entry to a daylit 450-seat auditorium, and ‘social condenser’ space. A pre-existing ‘desire line’ was retained, used to highlight the reclaimed water system, engaging pedestrians with the project’s sustainability goals.
A living roof above the auditorium provides a courtyard amenity for upper-level office users. The western façade’s living solar screen is planted with deciduous vines - once grown in, it will act as a dynamic shading device that responds to seasonal change. While assisting natural ventilation, the publicly accessible atrium is an educational space where all sustainable strategies are visible.
Designed to exceed LEED Platinum status, this ‘net-positive living building’ harvests sunlight, captures waste heat from a nearby building, and exchanges heating and cooling with the ground—and returns 600-megawatt-hours of surplus energy back to campus. Supplying 100% of the facility’s water needs, CIRS collects rainwater for potable use and purifies wastewater in an on-site solar aquatics biofiltration system. CIRS’s wood structure sequesters 600 tonnes of carbon, helping achieve carbon neutrality in construction and operations. More than a building, CIRS is a research tool that demonstrates the possibilities in sustainable design, serving as a catalyst for change.