UBCO working towards a carbon free future by 2050

No fossil fuels in this house

A new, affordable housing project currently being built at UBC Okanagan might appear like a regular construction site, but the Skeena building will run without fossil fuels.

Dave Waldron UBCO's former director of campus planning and development, sees the project as an energy efficient look into the future of housing.

"This really is a bold step forward," said Waldron. "Part of the beauty of the Passive House concept is it's simplicity. Essentially, what you're doing is making a super-efficient shell compared to conventional buildings."

The Passive House project will come to life thanks to the $18.7 million loan granted from the province and is expected to open in September 2020, providing housing to 220 students.

"The best way to conserve energy is to simply not need it in the first place, whether it's for heating or cooling. With Passive House buildings, you invest in your structure as opposed to a bunch of fancy mechanical and electrical bells and whistles, which makes it really long lasting because there aren't as many moving parts."

Once the building is finished, Skeena will be considered a 'net-zero energy ready building,' meaning it will meet all of its needs through renewable energy generated on-site, including solar and geothermal. 

Currently, structures contribute more than 90 per cent of greenhouse gases on campus, so Waldron believes Skeena is a step in the right direction for the university's plans to become carbon free by 2050.

"We see the campus as a 'living lab' that can bring insights to apply down the road in other buildings," he said.

"We're truly building for the future with this project. We would expect these buildings to be around 50 or more years from now, so they ought to still be appropriate for the times at that point."

Working towards cleaner energy is not new to UBCO. Last year alone, the campus's emissions declined by 29 per cent from the previous year.

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