These and other passive design elements have enabled a reduction in mechanical system size and associated energy requirements. The aforementioned wind tower (also known as a ‘wind catcher’) is one form of passive cooling. The structure is designed to use wind or temperature change to create differences in air pressure between the environment within the tower and within the building—the result generates the flow of air.
Geo-exchange systems, meanwhile, use heat energy within either the ground or groundwater. A heat pump extracts this heat and distributes it throughout the building.
Employing recycled and sustainably sourced materials was also an important factor in the design of these reinforced concrete buildings. This included the use of:
- recycled steel content in reinforcing and structural steel;
- supplementary cementing materials (SCMs), such as fly-ash, in all concrete; and
- regional materials (i.e. sand and aggregates for concrete mix).
Generally, building assemblies and materials—including the exterior precast concrete and brick—were specified for their low embodied energy, durability, and minimal maintenance needs.
Additionally, within the Globes system, both buildings scored 100 per cent for strategies to avoid or minimize the provision of materials that would produce air emissions, effluents, or be hazardous in any other way.
Creative learning through place-making
The design for UBCO was created with the future in mind. In the transition from a local college to a new regional university, the Fipke Centre and the Arts & Sciences Building were the first new facilities to be added to the existing campus.
With the intention of building on the ‘Okanagan’ sense of place that permeates the existing campus, the design team employed complementary colours, textures, landscaping, and spaces to reflect the main characteristics of the local geography. The two facilities also aim to set the direction for continued growth and development of the new university. This was based on the UBCO master plan that envisioned a hierarchy of precincts, nodes, and gathering spaces interconnected by formal axis and informal pathways.
With a vision for highly sustainable, people-centric facilities, the planning and design for the two new buildings brought together a diverse group of stakeholders, including a new faculty, an existing facilities team, the UBC Properties Trust, architects, engineers, and construction managers. The purpose was to create a highly collaborative team that balanced broad program requirements within a fixed budget and countdown schedule, permitting construction to coincide with the start of a new academic year.
The fundamental design concept was to use the synergy between these projects to create a unique ‘green precinct.’ This would act as a catalyst for sustainable design and place-making during the university’s build-out by setting up spatial, formal, and environmental cues for future development. Today’s new building and precinct is tomorrow’s context.
The ‘place-making’ premise is an important component of a successful learning experience, as it enhances the sense of a community. For science buildings in particular, ‘place’ affects the performance of learning and research activities. Research has shown buildings in which students spend a good deal of time will influence how well they learn. (For more, see G. Earthman’s “Prioritization of 31 Criteria for School Building Adequacy,” published in 2004 by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Foundation of Maryland).
The objective of place-making is intimately linked with the architectural concept of connectivity and the ecological concept of sustainability. The coming together of these two elements creates a sense of place; in turn, this fosters creative learning and thought.
Dynamic place-making through connectivity
A strong connection to a place can reduce stress and improve positive social relationships and interaction; it is essential to create great academic environments. Ancestors in their primitive villages created places that aligned them with the natural world and reinforced patterns of ritual and social structure. Ceremony, social order, defense, hunting, gathering, farming, and waste management were all in harmony with the land.
The challenge for the design team was to regenerate connections that are part of the ritual of a university campus—to stimulate a sense of an interactive learning community. At the campus scale, architects design in the timeframe of generations. Some of the best campuses in the world have these systems in place for hundreds of years, notably the defining structures of Oxford University’s Quads or the cloisters at the university town of Assisi in Italy. In making these connections, some of the elements to be considered include:
- journey and routes;
- crossings of paths;
- where and how the learning experience occurs;
- locations of study, exchange, and discovery opportunities; and
- emotional responses to space, learning, living, and passing through.
During the concept design phase for the two buildings, existing and future campus precincts were identified, such as the ‘university centre,’ ‘academic core,’ ‘hill town residential,’ and ‘health and wellness’ precincts. Campus connections were then created between them, and the resulting intersections structured pedestrian flow, and created places such as courtyards, gateways, passages, and steps to sit on and view corridors. Opportunities for ‘ecological connections’ were also overlaid to create sun spaces, terraces, and places for shaded repose.