Pharmaceutical Sciences Building lauded for its looks, efficiency

Image of the UBC Pharmaceutical Sciences Building, photo by Marc Cramer
UBC's energy-efficient Pharmaceutical Sciences Building has earned rewards for architecture and raves from the likes of Wallpaper* Magazine, which described it as "a kind of a cubist tree.' (Photo by Marc Cramer)

UBC building an architectural marvel that delivers on energy savings

The University of British Columbia's (UBC) main campus has changed a lot in the last few years. It's now dotted with some of the most gorgeous — and energy efficient — buildings on any campus, anywhere in the world.

Take for instance UBC's new Pharmaceutical Sciences Building (PSB). After the building officially opened on September 18, 2012, it received a flurry of awards including the Canadian Architect Award of Excellence, and 'Best in Show' from the Ontario Association of Architects.

Most recently, the PSB was named 'Best Lab' by prestigious UK-based design and lifestyle publication, Wallpaper* Magazine, which described it as "a kind of cubist tree." One of the building's architects, Gilles Saucier, has said it was designed "as a way to represent two trees interlacing like the roots coming down to the ground."

However you describe it, everyone seems to agree that it's as exciting to look at as it is to work in. It features a dramatic glass exterior, double atriums that allow light to flood in, and somewhat eccentric, wandering staircases.

Building's efficiencies expected to save 1.2 million kilowatt hours/year

Thanks to BC Hydro's New Construction Program (NCP), the PSB is also an energy and money-saver.

By implementing measures identified through an NCP-funded energy-modeling study, the PSB will save an estimated 1.2 million kilowatt hours per year compared to a similar building that doesn't include the same energy-conservation measures.

These measures include capturing waste heat from the basement data centre and recycling it into the building, as well as daylight sensors and a low-temperature water system.

Bojan Andjelkovic, specialist engineer, says labs are incredibly energy-intense, and they always have many fume hoods.

"Fume hoods limit exposure to hazardous chemicals or toxic fumes, but they are energy-guzzlers — one fume hood alone can use more energy than three typical B.C. homes," he says. "Energy-modeling allowed the design team to run whole-year detailed simulations to show how the building would perform at different times of day and night.

"By doing this at the early concept design stage, the team could interactively explore different design strategies — they could see, for example, what happened if you changed the PSB's orientation, shape, mass or envelope, or its building systems and energy sources."

The university also received an incentive from the NCP to help cover some of the incremental capital costs of the energy-saving measures. According to Nick Maile, development manager for UBC Properties Trust, incentives that may seem a small piece of overall construction costs are stil significant.

"It really does help, because we can give that money back to the pharmacy people to use for long-term operations," he says. "So not only does the university win by saving on energy use, the department wins as well."