December, 3, 2015 International Symposium, Keynote Speech
Inside the Living Laboratory
Thank you for the great honor of being asked to speak to you today.
We’re like a small city of about 60,000 people on a busy day. A small city that’s able to make decisions about every aspect of the campuses in construction. And from the previous speaker’s presentation we know this is important because all of the future challenges of sustainability in North America, in Europe, in Asia will be focused on how we develop, and grow, and expand our cities. We already have 50% of the globes population living in cities by 2030. That’s closer to 70%.
The University of British Columbia we have this great gift, this great endowment of having a campus that isn’t in the center of a city like this campus is, or like MIT is where we don’t control the stormwater, we don’t control the electricity directly, we’re like a small town. And we took this idea to create the concept about 10 years ago of the university as a living laboratory.
The second important thing to know about UBC is the province of British Columbia has created some of the strongest green building and climate policies in the world. So, in British Columbia in total we have a $30 a ton carbon tax on all natural gas, all oil, all coal based emissions. Its paid across the whole, every sector and every part of the province. And on the campuses we have an additional charge for carbon emissions to make the campus emissions carbon neutral. So, we pay an additional $25 a ton, which means the total price of carbon on the university campus, in every hospital and every other campus in the province is actually $55 a ton.
We have a policy in the province that creates a very strong incentive for us to reduce our emissions. We also have policies from the province that require us to increase electrification of the energy use that require us to build the greenest building available for every new building that we build. And which support investment in stormwater management and in waste management. So, all of these polices the province creates have involved very big incentives for the university to act differently.
The third big initiative and the big commitment by the University of British Columbia which started almost 15 years ago, was a commitment that we should see the campus research and teaching commitments as being overlapping or aligned with campus operations. In most universities you’ll have an operational team that will manage buildings and energy that’s managed completely separately from teaching and learning and research. And at UBC as you see in this presentation we’ve created a number of committees where the academics work closely with the operation staff, when they are making capital and allocation decisions. What we’re doing is not just getting a research grant we’re also taking money from the operating budget of the university and using that to leverage investment and research.
The fourth big innovation in the way that campus operates is that we evaluate every big investment decision on a life cycle basis. So, we look at both the construction cost, the operating cost, the maintenance cost, the renewal cost, and then also the end of life cost for any facility that we build.
In a university setting, in a campus setting we’re both the developer and the operator. And so, we have a strong incentive to both invest in the best capital equipment, because we will be paying the operating cost overtime. And the last major goal and the framework that I think is important to mention here is we set very aggressive targets for the university campus in many areas. And the simplest ones to summarize are our greenhouse gas commitments.
The core of that original policy was an investment an office on campus to invest in energy efficiency project. And that campus office was funded from the savings in the investments that it made. So, if they invested in energy efficient lighting in one of the buildings the following year money would come into their budget from those energy efficiency savings. So, it was like an energy investment company. And that was one of the early initiatives that was created on campus. That was expanded in 1998, to create a full campus sustainability office.
A centralized coordination facility within the operations team to look at all buildings, all energy use, all reporting and all sustainability management. What this means was by 2007 UBC as city has met its Kyoto targets, Kyoto greenhouse gas reductions targets which was a 6% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels. And we achieved that while the size of the campus grew by almost 25%, and when emissions in Canada in that same period had actually grown in the whole country by almost 25%.
It’s very important to establish a strong, clear vision for what the university campus as a corporation wants to achieve. And at UBC through lots of consultation with stakeholders we develop the vision for what sustainability means. An important part of this vision was that historically we talk about sustainability in terms of avoiding bad things, avoiding increases in greenhouse gases, avoiding damage to the surrounding environment, avoiding damage to water courses, reducing our waste management. And what we built into the sustainability vision for UBC was that we should also try and make the world around us a better place, we shouldn’t just think about avoiding the things that are bad, we should also try and understand how we improve well being and health on the campus, how we improve livelihoods, how we improve the performance of buildings.
In teaching learning and research we said our goal is for students to have access to sustainability learning alongside their chosen degree program. So, if you come to UBC to study engineering, or to study accounting, the university changed its rules to allow any student to have a minor program in any aspect of the sustainability. We have over 350 courses listed across the university now, and a whole system that allows student to learn sustainability as part of what they need to learn as graduates from the university campus. So, we created an office and a team of thirty people that help to manage that curriculum and update it and support student learning and those kinds of outcome. We also created a vision for our operations and infrastructure. Our goal is to enhance the efficiency of our operations, reduce environmental impact, recover cost savings, while leveraging our campus infrastructure to demonstrate innovative sustainability solutions at a municipal scale. So, that just gives you some sense of the scale of the campus. And to translate this big vision for the campus into practice, one of the things we’ve done is investing creating a network of coordinators across all of the faculties, and all of the administrative units on the campus. So, it’s not simply enough to have a top down approach, and deans, and senior faculty, and administrators are involved. We have volunteers who give their time as staff to help with the coordination of sustainability initiatives across the campus. And typically, we have around 70 campus sustainability coordinators, who help to implement these systems as part of their jobs across the campus, and support the 30 full-time staff that work in the sustainability office. Within the research laboratories on the campus, we’ve identified over 200 researches, in 24 laboratories. And we keep a catalogue of all the sustainability related research that’s underway on the campus.
And then, within the student residences we have around 9,000 students living in the residences. 3,000 of those students have been engaged in working with sustainability initiatives within the student residences as well. So, for this to work it requires a big investment in building these networks, and supporting these networks. And making sure the message and the implementation of sustainability isn’t just in isolation in the context of operations, or a few researches. It actually it becomes part of the public and life of the university as a whole.
The approach we take is represented in this simple diagram. In the center of the diagram we have this commitment that the campus is a living laboratory. That everything we do in the campus, from the food that we purchased, or the paper that we’re buying, to the kinds of vehicles we drive on the campus, should be an opportunity for experimentation for testing in sustainability.
We developed, and identified, and developed 636 sustainability related courses on the UBC campus. So, Dr. Newman said in the previous talk, it’s important to create a baseline of your total emissions, and your total performance in all areas. But it’s also important to be honest and open about your reporting and your transparency around each of these areas. In teaching, and learning, and research we set this goal that every student should have the opportunity to learn about sustainability to create a sustainability, to create a sustainability learning pathway, even if they’re studying medicine or electronics or accounting.
So, through that work we’ve identified and developed, 636 courses engaged, 448 faculty and sustainability research, and we have faculty students and staff engaged in almost 800 engaged in applied research projects. So, one of the core offices on the campus, the SEEDS office will identify sustainability related projects on the university campus. And then, will work to find students who can work on those projects, and we’ve been, in the last five years, extended that program to work with the Vancouver, the province, and with the utility to identify projects that are students can work on. So, we see teaching, learning and research as both what happens in the classroom, but also how we engage, our students and our researches in solving some of the problems on the campus through projects, and applied research initiatives.
And we’ve spend a lot of time developing speaker series, and bringing in high profile external speakers. We’ve had almost 5,000 students just in this year, engaged in events through speaker series. And we’ve 30 graduate students working on internships with our community partners. So, we see all of these projects within the sustainability initiative as opportunities for students to engage in research and applied research projects. In terms of operations, and infrastructure on the campus, we’ve worked on the series of climate action projects on the campus. We’ve focused on the campus vehicle fleets, we’ve looked at built 22 green buildings, and we built out and extended a neighborhood energy utility on the campus.
What I want to introduce now is two of the three big projects that we’ve worked on where we really uses concept of the university as a living laboratory. And to both engaging interesting research projects, but also improve the campus infrastructure, and support the innovation within the region. The first of those projects is called the UBC Bioenergy Demonstration project.
The second project that I want to share with you is the CIRS building, C-I-R-S building. This is the greenest building in North America, and it was one of the original living laboratory concept buildings. When we designed this building starting in the year 2000, we wanted to design a building that we could integrated all of the most advanced energy, lighting and heating technologies in the world into a single building. And we originally designed it, in a way that we could take some of those systems out, and replace it with more advanced system as they developed and evolved. So, it’s what’s called a modular building, we can change the configuration of the building, where the walls are, where the floors are positioned. From the very beginning we designed the building to be as flexible as possible.
This shows the building from the side, as though it sliced through it. And it shows you some of the main features. In this room, we have a 500 person lecture theatre, and that generates from our students a lot of heat. But instead of building an air-conditioning systems-what we did is build the shape of the building, in a way that it pulls hot air out of the building, circulates it out to the top of the building. And then, has a heat exchange that’s in the ground that transfers the heat in the day time into the ground and allows us to pull the heat out of the ground in the evening to heat the building. The building also catches all the rain that falls on the roof, it captures enough rain water for all of the water uses of the building. We have photovoltaic systems on the roof here, which provide electricity for some of the buildings on the outside.
And we have, you can see on the front of the building here, we actually have what looks like a giant green house in the front of the building. And it’s an aquatic system for treating all of the dirty water that comes out to the building. So, when it goes back into the storm water it’s completely clean water. And then, my favorite feature in the building is on the front of the building we have trees growing up at front. You can see them here on this area here, when the building was just completed, all of these area on the front of the building will covered in trees. In the summer times the trees have leaves, so they provide shade for the building. In the winter the leaves fall off, and they let extra light in, so it warms up the building winter months. So, this building is net positive energy, it produces more energy than it uses. Its net positive for water quality, it captures more water from the sky, then it needs to return it in operations. The structural carbon refers to the wood that’s stored in-there are wooden beams in building. And the operational carbon describes the carbon that’s produced by heating and lighting the building. But it’s also a building that people live and work within. And so, we also had to look at their happiness, their productivity. Every horizontal surface in the building is led by sunlight, and one of the things that we’ve learnt is that when you have sunlight into every part of the building it improves people’s happiness and productivity. And in my last three slides, I’ll just look at some of the financial issues here. This shows the cost per year for constructing a building-this is was a $40 million dollar building ultimately. And we compared the CIRS building on the right here, with the best practice in terms of LEED Gold buildings in Vancouver.
And the difference here is in those buildings the construction costs for the LEED building are lower than for the CIRS building. So, we spend more money constructing the building but we save lots of money here in the operating cost of the building. And we also saved money and capital renewal. And all the capital renewal means is that when we change the use of the building, and we knock down walls and we put in new walls in a normal building, in a conventional building that’s very expensive. In the CIRS building we created all of the floors and all of the walls in a way that they could be lifted up, and move without having to demolish them, without having to break them down. So, when you do that you can save almost 50% on capital renewal over the lifespan of the building. So, although we spend more money out front on balance on our life cycles basis. The building cost the same as a conventional building. And this is for a building that’s still really working experiment.
The last example I want to tell you about is a building that we just started to construct on campus now. This is a wood frame building, it will be the tallest wooden building in the world. The only part of the building that’s concrete is the elevator shaft. All of the structural engineering, and load bearing, the weight is borne by large cross laminate timber beams. So, beams that are maybe this wide across, and are strongest steel and the strongest concrete, and more fire resistant than steel. Currently the tallest building, made of wood in the world is 11 stories. I think in Japan the tallest wooden building is 5 stories that you are allowed to build. This building will be 18 stories tall, and around 53 meters high. It will provide 400 bedrooms for our students on the campus.
Finally I was asked to talk a little bit about our partnerships, and we’ve a very close partnership with the City Of Vancouver. We work on joint research project with them, and demonstration projects. We have a partnership with BC Hydro, which is the utility that provides electricity in the province. And we have a partnership with Metro Vancouver, which supportswater and transit within the region. So we work on joint research projects with them. And then, we have multiple industrial partnerships. So, right now we are working with CISCO on a system to deliver electricity to our laptops using Ethernet cables instead of using traditional power lines, which is much lower cost and much more efficient. And we’re demonstrating that on the university campus.
So, what are my conclusions? What is my advice from our experience? The first thing is not actually on this slide, but the first thing is we’ve been working on this for almost 25 years. So, it takes a long time to build this systems and to change the way decisions got made. And so, you should be patient when you are implementing sustainability. The second is that it’s important to create aggressive strong binding targets for the campus for delivery, and to hold yourself accountable to those targets. The third one and I think this is probably the most important initiative is, you need to have strong integration between the academic units to identify research that the faculty are interested in. And with teaching were we integrated learning opportunities into courses, with the operational teams on the campus. And that integration is really important for the success of the university. We have a total budget on the campus of about $ 2 billion, but each year we bring in about half a billion dollars, $ 500 million of research income.
So, if we can find research opportunities that enhance our research income, we can perform better as a university. I think that this commitment to the life cycle budgeting and costing is very important too. This allows us to make intelligent decisions about how to invest capital infrastructure. And then, the final point is because the cost of carbon is so high in British Columbia that government policy drove all of our decision makers to think very carefully about how they managed their investments. Thank you very much.