Going Greener in Vancouver and at the University of British Columbia

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Situated on the unceded traditional territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam Indian Band), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish Nation), and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh Nation), Vancouver represents a truly vibrant and cosmopolitan city right on the edge of nature. Thanks to the decade-long effort put into action by the City of Vancouver to make Vancity a greener place to “live, work, and play”, Vancouver is considered one of the most liveable cities in Canada as well as in the world.

Building on the 2009 work of the former Mayor Gregor Robertson’s “Greenest City Action Team” (composed of local experts researching best practices from leading green cities around the world), the City of Vancouver advances ten goal areas (18 targets) covering everything from air quality and water conservation to sustainability goals for buildings, transportation and the green economy. 

The Team established the goals and targets that would make Vancouver the world’s Greenest City by focusing the ongoing efforts on creating green jobs, protecting and improving health as well as enhancing green transportation options that support green neighborhoods and green spaces. Eight out of 18 targets have been hit, and significant progress has been made in each of the remaining 10 goal areas. Following its urban planning philosophy, i.e. Vancouverism, which combines deep respect for nature with dynamic urban life, Vancouver has furthermore implemented the greenest building code in North America, and guaranteed all buildings constructed after 2020 are carbon neutral.

Notable for its early start and for its scope, the University of British Columbia in Vancouver functions as a catalyst in green building expertise. UBC’s scope of green building is wider than the scope of most other universities. Growing rapidly, UBC is taking on a global role in innovative green building design and construction. Through “The Green Building Action Plan”, UBC’s buildings aim to make “net positive contributions to human and natural systems by 2035”. Its signature green buildings receive a high profile, inspiring people beyond campus, and are frequently visited by sustainability tour groups, including international guests, as well as architecture and engineering firms. 

The first green project, the C. K. Choi Building completed in 1996 was one of the first green buildings in the world, featuring approaches to reducing energy, water, and resource use. Some of its highlights include (1) composting toilets that save more than 1,000 liters of water per day, (2) 50 per cent reused or recycled materials, (3) 100 per cent natural ventilation, and (4) named in 2000 as one of the Top Ten Green Buildings by the American Institute of Architects.

About the author:

Irem Ayan is Fulbright Scholar at Binghamton University’s Translation, Research and Instruction Program (TRIP) and earned her doctorate in translation studies in August 2019. 


Sources :

  1. City of Vancouver, Greenest City Action Plan: https://vancouver.ca/green-vancouver/greenest-city-action-plan.aspx
  2. UBC Campus Sustainability Office Green Building Case Study: https://sustain.ubc.ca/sites/sustain.ubc.ca/files/uploads/CampusSustainability/CS_PDFs/CaseStudies/GreenBuilding_CaseStudy.pdf
  3. UBC Sustainability Green Buildings: https://sustain.ubc.ca/campus/green-buildings
  4. UBC Green Building Action Plan https://planning.ubc.ca/sites/default/files/2019-11/PLAN_UBC_Green_Building_Action_Plan_Full.pdf