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BLOG: "Whole Systems Infrastructure Planning" at the 2016 AIBC Conference

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by JOC Digital Media

Kathy Wardle, a principal at Perkins + Will and Gerry McGeough, the director of planning and design at the University of British Columbia, were the presenters for the "Whole Systems Infrastructure Planning Approach Yields a Low Carbon Solution for UBC Okanagan Campus" session at the Architectural Institute of British Columbia's 2016 annual conference, held May 18 in Vancouver.
BLOG: "Whole Systems Infrastructure Planning" at the 2016 AIBC Conference

Wardle began by saying the imperative behind the project was for the University of British Columbia – Okanagan campus to counter climate change, as well as display resilience given its place in the British Columbia interior.

Wardle said while the resilience of built forms is important, the resilience of ecosystems is equally if not more important.

Whole systems thinking, she said, is understanding how a building or site is part of a system of systems, and that actions at one scale can have profound impacts across scales and sites.

For whole systems planning to work, one must understand the project context, involve an interdisciplinary team, see if the sum of all parts of a system is greater than a single solution in isolation, and seek opportunities to find synergies and optimize resource flows.

One must also, she added, anticipate future conditions and explore how systems-based solutions can lead to new partnerships.

UBC Okanagan was established in 2005, and the student population has doubled since then. The 20 year Campus Plan has whole systems infrastructure as a vital component, and is meant to help create community.

The purpose of the plan is as a technical implementation plan which manages growth for a net positive impact. It also displays resilience against future climate risk, and guides sustainability action across portfolios.

The process of the plan was to do background work and existing conditions assessment, followed by an evaluation of system options and economic modelling. A whole systems milestones roadmap was developed and performance metrics were established. From there, a five year implementation plan was created, culminating in a final deliverable.

Several goals were established:

Net positive performance in operational energy in carbon

Supporting low embodied carbon future development

Optimization of water quality, supply and security

Striving towards full waste recovery

Energy goals included achieving a net positive performance in operational energy and carbon, and implementing a framework that supports low carbon use.

To reduce a building's carbon footprint, McGeough said, is it important that a simple energy hierarchy is used. One must reduce the need for energy in the building's design, use energy more efficiently in the building, and supply energy from carbon neutral sources.

McGeough said by 2025-30 UBC Okanagan wants a 50 per cent reduction over the NECB 2015 standard.

Solar isn't there yet, he said, but all buildings have to be "solar-ready." Gas boilers need to be converted to biomass, and strategic partnerships will be initiated to reach net zero, he said.

Energy was the most difficult part of the project, McGeough said, and financing was tricky because there "had to be a valid business case for this path."

Guiding principles for water use was to meter, measure and monitor, conserve and reuse, Wardle said.

There was a lack of building baseline data, a lake of usage patterns and inexpensive water as a resource, But in terms of opportunities there were water fixture audits and meters on each building.

Stormwater is recognized as a resource, especially since Kelowna is an arid landscape with low soil permeability.

The stormwater plan is to collect stormwater to enhance wetlands, infiltrate runoff from buildings and increase pervious surfaces in the campus core, use low impact development strategies to maintain stormwater onsite, and update the 200 UBCO stormwater plan with low impact development strategies.

Other key findings were that the landscape around the campus is rapidly urbanizing, with approximately 52 species at risk. There are also risks of fire and drought, influenced by climate change, and there is a history of disturbances from industrial and agricultural use.

Recommendations included focusing future development within the campus core and integrating indigenous plants into the campus core as well, restoring disturbed natural areas on campus, collecting and filtering stormwater to enhance wetlands, engage in forest management t reduce fire risk, and use the ecological features of the campus as part of the learning landscape.

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