Unwreck the Beach: SRC North to open with sustainability features

The Student Recreation Centre (SRC) North construction near the Life Building will bring three new gymnasiums, an indoor running track and more campus fitness space according to banners promoting the building's amenities.

The SRC North was added to the campus plan after a 2017 GamePlan public survey identified a lack of fitness spaces, gymnasium spaces and academic support for the School of Kinesiology. The project, which addresses these concerns, earned approval from the Board of Governors in June 2022, and construction started a few months later.

In commercial buildings, the largest contributor to carbon pollution is space heating and cooling. When looking at the SRC North, John Madden, the director of engineering and sustainability at Campus and Community Planning, said the building will use air source heat pumps, heat recovery ventilators, passive cooling and be “suppl[ied] energy through low carbon electrification” from the Bioenergy Research and Demonstration Facility (BRDF).

The BRDF is located between the Marine Drive and Totem Park residences and provides about 30 per cent of campus’s heating needs through urban waste wood.

Madden defined urban waste wood as any wood material that would otherwise decompose in a landfill like construction wood cuttings and grocery pallets. These are “made into the biomass that becomes the feedstock for the thermal energy that supports our our campus,” he noted.

The design team, according to Madden, accounted for the carbon emissions that would occur before and during the SRC North construction. While the building’s materials aren’t necessarily low-carbon or recycled, the team was influenced by embodied carbon guidelines.

Embodied carbon is all of the carbon emissions produced making a material for a building. This includes the fuel required to harvest the material, the energy needed to process and transport it, as well as any packaging. The scope of embodied carbon can be expanded to include the energy outputs of construction and disassembly, if desired.

These guidelines helped the design team “in terms of how they think about the deployment of steel, glass [and] concrete to minimize the amount of embodied carbon associated with the material aspects of the building,” said Madden.

Looking at embodied carbon gives a more comprehensive analysis of the building’s emissions. UBC’s guidelines look at embodied carbon from the material’s harvest up to and including the construction emissions. Considering the construction industry emits about the same amount of carbon as one million cars in a year, including the installation of materials is crucial in embodied carbon calculations.

“If we're going to solve climate change, we have to address the full extent of impacts associated with buildings that are being constructed on our campus,” Madden said.

To further ensure the full consideration of impacts, the building will be LEED Gold Certified, and its location is intended to aid in reducing transportation emissions, according to Madden.

Sustainable design was in the top-three most talked about topics during the SRC North’s public consultation period, which happened in February of 2020. Students, faculty, staff, and community members had two weeks to fill out an online survey or attend a public brief open house to voice their support or concern for the project.

Unwreck the Beach is The Ubyssey’s sustainability column. Send topics you’d like covered and pitches to sustainability@ubyssey.ca