UBC Embodied Carbon Pilot Study

The UBC Embodied Carbon Pilot is a multi-year research study on the practice of conducting LCAs to measure a building’s global warming potential (GWP), and how they can be used effectively to inform policy and guidelines on embodied carbon emission from building materials, through the establishment of benchmarks and eventually performance targets. The Pilot is being conducted by the Urban Innovation Research team in the UBC Sustainability Initiative (USI), in collaboration with UBC Campus and Community Planning and Athena Sustainable Materials Institute, and supported by funding from Forestry Innovation Investment’s Wood First program.

The building industry is a significant contributor to climate change. Buildings and construction are currently responsible for 39% of all global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (UNEP), and since the rate of construction is only expected to grow in the coming decades, reducing emissions from the building sector is critical to addressing climate change. GHG emissions from the operation of buildings have been most significant, but as buildings’ operational energy consumption is reduced, along with the associated operational emissions, the embodied emissions from building materials are becoming proportionally more significant.

Embodied carbon emissions refer to the GHG emissions attributed to materials throughout their life cycle — resource extraction and production, installation, use, and end of life — typically reported in kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalent (kg CO2 eq). These emissions, along with other environmental impacts, can be estimated through life cycle assessments (LCA), calculations that multiply the environmental impacts of a unit of a material (as determined through measurements, models, or other means) with the quantity of that material used in a building project. Information on the environmental impacts are provided by the assessment tools; information on the material quantity is provided by a project’s bill of materials (BoM). Embodied carbon assessments are LCAs that exclude the operational energy and water use and consider only on the embodied carbon emissions from building materials.

UBC EMBODIED CARBON PILOT Study of whole building life cycle assessment processes at the University of British Columbia

The UBC Embodied Carbon Pilot is a multi-year research study on the practice of conducting LCAs to measure a building’s global warming potential (GWP)

UBC MT abdul ladha
Abdul Ladha Student Science Centre

The Abdul Ladha Science Student Centre is one of a few independent student society buildings on campus, the first of its kind to provide socializing and studying space for students within the Faculty of Science. The design features locally sourced mass timber elements in the primary supporting walls and roof, as well as glue-laminated timber (GLT) columns and beams that uphold the structure. The use of wood was intended to bring a sense of strength, stability, and warmth to the structure, and was chosen for its local availability and sustainable attributes. Additionally, the exterior wall finish is clad with cedar siding.

Photo courtesy: Johnston Davidson Architecture

Alma Mater Society Student Nest exterior
Alma Mater Society Student Nest

The Alma Mater Society (AMS) Student Nest strives to be a welcoming and inclusive student centre, hosting a wide range of functions including retail and food services, student club rooms, and meeting spaces. The building’s structure is mainly concrete while strategically employing mass timber structural elements to enhance the design. The East atrium stands out for its four-story-high, curved glue-laminated timber (GLT) columns. The West atrium’s saw tooth roof is constructed with cross-laminated timber panels (CLT), supported by GLT trusses. The Nest fully embraces sustainability in both its functions and built-form.

Photo: Ema Peter | Courtesy: Dialog and B+H Architects

Bioenergy Research and Demonstration Facility Exterior
Bioenergy Research and Demonstration Facility

The Bioenergy Research and Demonstration Facility (BRDF) is an energy generation facility that processes wood waste biomass to generate thermal energy for the UBC campus. The building features an exposed mass timber structure, with Douglas-Fir glue-laminated timber (GLT) columns and beams attached through steel connectors, and Spruce-Pine-Fir cross-laminated timber (CLT) panels for the floor, walls, and roof. The CLT panels were fabricated locally, mostly from percent pine beetle-affected lumber. The BRDF is one of North America’s first industrial buildings to be constructed with CTL panel technology.

Photo: Don Erhardt

Brock Commons Tall House
Brock Commons Tall House

The Brock Commons Tallwood House is an 18-storey mass timber hybrid high-rise, the first of its kind in Canada. Apart from having a concrete foundation, ground floor, and elevator cores, the building is predominantly formed by a mass timber structure. It features prefabricated cross-laminated timber (CLT) floor panels, supported mostly on glue-laminated timber (GLT) columns and some parallel strand lumber (PSL) columns. Tallwood House provides accommodation for more than 400 students. The building used more than 2,300 cubic meters of wood and is one of the tallest hybrid mass timber structures to date.

Photo: Michael Elkan | Courtesy: Acton Ostry Architects

C.K. Choi Building for the Institute of Asian Research
C.K. Choi Building for the institute of Asian Research

The C.K. Choi Building houses the Institute of Asian Research, the Institute for European Studies and the Pacific Affairs journal. The building was designed to reach new benchmarks in sustainability and is therefore considered the first green building on the UBC Vancouver Campus. The building features an innovative Douglas-fir heavy timber structure, as well as glue-laminated timber (GLT) columns and beams mainly as the support of the curved atrium roofs. The project team made use of reused construction materials such as timber salvaged from the neighboring deconstructed Armories Building.

Photo: Don Erhardt

Campus Energy Centre
Campus Energy Centre

The Campus Energy Centre (CEC) is a state-of-the-art hot water boiler facility and the primary energy source for the academic campus district energy system. The primary structure consists of locally sourced cross-laminated timber (CLT) panels supported by glue-laminated timber (GLT) columns and beams that span twenty metres across the facility. Zinc metal shrouds are used as the building envelope, meeting ventilation
and light transparency requirements. The CEC building and facility support UBC in achieving their goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Photo: Ema Peter | Courtesy: Dialog Design

Centre for Advance Wood Processing
Centre for Advanced Wood Processing

The Centre of Advanced Wood Processing (CAWP) is Canada’s national centre for education, training, and technical assistance for the wood products manufacturing industry. The building was designed to feature the latest innovations in engineered wood products and techniques. In combination with a concrete foundation and basement, the structure is upheld by glue-laminated timber (GLT) columns and beams. Additionally, heavy timber trusses are used to support the roof of its machine laboratory. CAWP is situated within the Forest Sciences complex, home to
the UBC Faculty of Forestry.

Photo courtesy: UBC Centre for Advanced Wood Processing

Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability
Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability

The Centre of Interactive Research on Sustainability (CIRS) is the flagship of Campus as a Living Lab and UBC’s sustainability hub. Since 2008, the building has also been the subject of sustainable building research. It consists of a hybrid structure, with a cast-in-place concrete foundation, basement and ground level, and glue-laminated timber (GLT) beams that support the auditorium roof. Nailed-laminated timber (NLT), sourced regionally from pine-beetle-infested forests are used as floor decking. Additionally, the exterior cladding is stained Western cedar panels.

Photo: Don Erhardt

Coal and Mineral Processing Laboratory Addition
Coal and Mineral Processing Laboratory

The Coal and Mineral Processing Laboratory Addition, part of the Norman B. Keevil Institute of Mining Engineering, sits adjacent to the original building from 1981. The addition, while small in area, provides a relaxing recreational space for mining engineering students, faculty, and staff. In contrast to the existing concrete building, the upper two levels of the laboratory addition are supported by exposed glue laminated timber (GLT) columns and beams. On the exterior, the building is clad in zinc-shingled tiles. The material choices aim to bring a sense of lightness, warmth, colour, and transparency to the space.

Photo: Wendy Niamath | Courtesy: Johnston Davidson Architecture

Earth and Sciences Building
Earth Sciences Building

The Earth Sciences Building houses UBC Faculty of Science departments and the Pacific Museum of the Earth. The building features a free-floating cantilevered cross-laminated timber (CLT) staircase in its atrium. CLT panels also form the primary structure of the office wing, as well as an exterior canopy and interior ceiling finishes. The structure has diagonal glue laminated timber (GLT) braces at the end walls on each story to resist seismic loads. Using over 1,300 tons of CLT, UBC’s Earth Sciences Building is one of the largest panelized wood structure and the largest building application of CLT in North America.

Photos: Martin Tessler | Courtesy: Perkins and Will Architects

Engineering Student Centre
Engineering Student Centre

The Engineering Student Centre provides space for UBC engineering students to study, gather, socialize, and create a community. The building is also home to the UBC Engineering Undergraduate Society and its main offices. Locally sourced wood was selected as the primary building material. The structure features glue-laminated timber (GLT) columns on the periphery, as well as a truss system that suspends the second floor from the roof to create an open space on ground floor. The roof, floor, and shear elements are formed by nail-laminated timber (NLT), and the service zone is
conventional stick frame construction.

Photo: Martin Knowles

First Nations Longhouse
First Nations Longhouse

The First Nation Longhouse is part of the First Nations House of Learning, which hosts academic programs and serves as a community centre for First Nations, Métis, and  Inuit students, faculty, and staff on campus. The structure is shaped like the typical Musqueam-style longhouse,
using regionally harvested western red cedar and traditional Coast Salish techniques in its construction. The building features heavy timber columns and beams, light wood-framed walls, naturally weathered shiplap exterior cladding, and a copper roof. The Longhouse’s use of wood acknowledges and emphasizes the First Nations’ history and cultural practice of using wood in construction.

Photo: Don Erhardt

Forest Sciences Centre
Forest Sciences Centre

The Forest Sciences Centre is home to the UBC Faculty of Forestry. This building is a collection of three building blocks: an office block, a laboratory, and a wood processing centre, all of which surround a large central atrium. The atrium is known for its 13-meter-tall parallel strand lumber (PSL) columns and a branch-like system of trusses, used to support the skylight roof. The columns are connected to the branches using hybrid steel-to-wood connections. The atrium walls are lined with Douglas-fir boards and big-leaf maple wood veneer.

Photo: Don Erhardt

Indian and Residential School History and Dialogue Centre
Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre

The Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre (IRSHDC) is home to a collection of records related to Canada’s Indian Residential School system. The building features several symbolic architectural elements such as large standing windows, the copper roof and the charred cedar plank siding. In combination with the concrete foundation and steel columns, the building features glue-laminated timber (GLT) columns and beams, and cross-laminated timber (CLT) wall and roof panels. Along the interior staircase, the woven western red cedar wall represents the culture of basket
weaving and bulrush mats used in longhouses.

Photo: Andrew Latreille | Courtesy: Formline Architecture

Marine Drive Commonsblock
Marine Drive Commonsblock

Located within the Marine Drive Residence complex, the commons block provides socializing space and amenities for its students. The building features a hybrid structure: a concrete foundation and core, wood frame exterior walls and mass timber structural elements. Its most distinct feature is the series of exposed heavy timber columns and parallel-strand lumber (PSL) beams, which were prefabricated using locally sourced wood. The structure also features exposed glue-laminated timber (GLT) columns and beams. The use of wood creates a natural connection between the building and its site environment.

Photos: Bob Matheson | Courtesy: Dialog

Old Barn Community Centre
Old Barn Community Centre

The Old Barn Community Center provides a social and recreational space for its surrounding UBC communities. The building is upheld by a series of glue-laminated timber (GLT) columns and beams. Laminated veneer lumber (LVL) is also used as beams in some parts of the building. Utilizing traditional materials such as cedar shake and lap siding, the structure combines a post and beam structure and traditionally shaped roof lines with modern glazing systems. The centre is located on a site that was previously occupied by the Old Horse Barn, a 1920-vintage barn home to a team of Clydesdale horses.

Orchard Commons
Orchard Commons

The UBC Orchards Commons development combines two 18-storey student housing residences, with a shared student commons area that houses amenities and food services. The structure of the commons area features exposed mass timber elements including glue laminated timber (GLT) columns and beams, along with nail laminated timber (NLT) roof and stairs. The NLT roof panels that cover over 1,800 m2 over the commons area were fabricated with local wood fibres that provide an aesthetic timber soffit.

Photos: Michael Elkan | Courtesy: Perkins and Will Architects

UBC Basecall Indoor Trainning Centre
UBC Baseball Indoor Training Centre

The state-of-the-art UBC Baseball Indoor Training Centre provides space for a comfortable training environment all year round. The building has a concrete foundation and a hybrid structure: the training area features exposed glue-laminated timber (GLT) columns and beams and laminated strand lumber (LSL) tilt-up walls; the observation deck, offices, and visitor areas are conventional light wood-frame structure. The structure is the
first glulam LSL composite tilt-up wall panel system of its kind.

Photos: Rich Lam | Courtesy: UBC Athletics & Recreation

UBC Bookstore Expansion and Renovation
UBC Bookstore

Operating since 1917, the UBC Vancouver Bookstore building was renovated in 2013 to improve the space and expand its footprint. The building’s new roof consists of prefabricated hybrid wood-steel panels made from nail-laminated timber (NLT) that integrate the mechanical and electrical systems as well as the roof membrane. These panels were manufactured off-site and installed in just three days. The new bookstore has an improved and brightened presence and provides a vibrant social space at the campus heart.

Photo: Ema Peter | Courtesy: omb

UBC Football Academy Centre
UBC Football Academic Centre

The UBC Football Academic Centre, situated adjacent to the football field at the UBC Thunderbird Stadium, provides space for the Varsity Football team to focus on their academic development. The building structure is composed of glue-laminated timber (GLT) columns and beams, and nail laminated timber (NLT) ceiling and wall panels. The building features a retractable wall that opens fully to allow access and visibility to the stadium field.

Photo courtesy of: UBC Athletics & Recreation

University Boulevard Transit Shelters
University Boulevard Transit Shelters

In 2013, two transit shelters were erected at the University Boulevard bus loop, and have since become an integral part to this boulevard’s identity
and redevelopment. Conceptually, the shelters act as an extension of the nearby Katsura tree line. Each shelter features an oversized cellular wood structure, clad in glass and supported by steel columns. The canopy form is achieved by repeating a single, easily prefabricated, glue-laminated  timber (GLT) module. Each module is an asymmetrical pentagon, rotated and flipped along its edges, and when assembled together create a lively hive-like structure.

Photo courtesy: Fast + Epp

University Hill Secondary
University Hill Secondary

The University Hill Secondary School, located in the former UBC National Research Council building, was renovated, expanded and transformed into a new 800 student capacity school. The structure is mainly composed of concrete and steel and includes mass timber elements in strategic areas, in line with the Ministry of Education Wood First Initiative. Glue laminated timber (GLT) and heavy timber beams are used in the gym and studio roof to provide longer spans. GLT elements can also be seen at the entrance canopy.

Photo: Ema Peter | Courtesy: Thinkspace Architecture Planning Interior Design

Wayne and William White Engineering Design Centre
Wayne and William White Engineering Design Centre

The Wayne and William White Engineering Design Centre provides students from the different UBC engineering departments with a design studio,
workshops and project rooms for classes and meetings. While the building structure primarily consists of concrete and steel, the atrium features extensive use of wood and is supported by a series of glue-laminated timber (GLT) columns and beams. The atrium also uses nail-laminated timber (NLT) panels for its roof and cedar sidings on the exterior walls as sunshades. Although not certified, the building is designed to LEED Gold standard.

Photos: Derek Lepper | Courtesy: McFarland Marceau Architects

Westbrook Community Centre
Wesbrook Community Centre

The Wesbrook Community Centre serves UBC neighbourhoods, in particular the residences of Wesbrook Place, by providing gathering space and
amenities such as a fitness center, a gymnasium, and activity rooms. The building’s columns and beams, including the series of arched, long-spanning beams of the gymnasium, are made of glue-laminated timber (GLT). The floors, walls, and roof consist mainly of cross-laminated timber (CLT) panels, while cedar panels were used for the façade. Wesbrook Community Centre is a high-performance building, designed to meet energy
targets equivalent to a LEED Gold standard.

Photo: Camille Esquivel | Courtesy: Francl Architecture

UBC Mass Timber building profiles—Part I

UBC Mass Timber building profiles—Part II

UBC Mass Timber building profiles—Part III

Misty interwoven rolling hills of natural British Columbia coniferous forest populated with fir, pine, and cedar trees
Carbon + climate

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Embodied Carbon of Buildings and Infrastructure

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Glulam Beams and sustainable design are featured in this four story upward interior atrium view of the Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability (CIRS)
Life Cycle Assessment at UBC

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Exterior sunny view of three-storey low rise mass timber constructed Pacific Autism Family Centre showing warm exterior of Douglas-Fir and Western Red Cedar
Demonstrating the Benefits of Whole-Building Life Cycle Assessment

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