UBC wins innovation award for sustainable facilities management

UBC’s effort in making a sustainable campus was recently recognized by APPA: Leadership in Educational Facilities with a Sustainability Innovation Award in Facilities Management. This award specifically recognizes educational institutions that prioritize green design, while promoting student’s involvement in sustainable actions.

This marks the second time that the university has been honoured by APPA.

“It’s a recognition of our successful efforts to embed sustainability throughout the university from the 20-year Sustainability Strategy, the 2020 Climate Action Plan, and energy innovation projects, to the SEEDS Sustainability Program that brings together faculty, students and staff to address campus sustainability challenges,” said John Madden, director of sustainability and engineering, in a press release.

For instance, UBC has successfully reduced greenhouse gas emissions on campus by 34 per cent as of 2016, keeping it on track to achieve the goals laid out in the 2020 Climate Action Plan.

As outlined in the press release, one contributing factor refer to the Academic District Energy System (ADES), which replaces the university’s old steam system with a “more efficient hot water system.” Other cuts to emission come from the Bio-energy Research and Demonstration Facility — which “processes renewable biomass” for heating — and a “tune-up program” that aimed at optimizing electricity and thermal energy usage.

Community engagement initiatives are also credited.

Most popular is perhaps the SEEDS Sustainability Program, which connects students and staff in furthering research on campus and community planning. Thus far, UBC reports that over 7,500 students have participated in the program, and over 1,500 research reports and 900 projects were created in the process.

Other visible efforts include the instalment of sort-it-out recycling stations and the integration of sustainability into academic content.

“UBC’s Zero Waste Action Plan outlines targets for achieving zero waste on campus with a goal to reach 80 per cent composting and recycling by 2020 — and it’s exciting that we are already well on the way to reaching that goal,” said Alycia Doering, a UBC Sustainability Initiative’s ambassador.

“[The university also] offers a large amount of classes focussed on various forms of sustainability ... There are so many resources out there in terms of sustainability — you just have to look for them!”

Beyond these initiatives, the future of sustainability on campus will also be influenced by UBC’s Next Century — a strategic plan framing future goals and initiatives over the next few decades.

As part of the plan’s consultation process, UBC President Santa Ono has met with various student organizations to hear their thoughts on the environment and sustainability issues. One of their main priorities involves the divestment of UBC’s funding from mining and fossil fuel companies.

“UBC is actively funding and pouring millions of dollars into corporations that produce fossil fuels and sell fossil fuels,” said Gabby Doebeli, the communications coordinator of UBC350. “There’s a hypocrisy there. Yes, they’re doing visible things, but we need to go deeper than that and not be complicit in supporting fossil fuel industries.”

Both sides of the meeting seemed to be hopeful about future progress of sustainability at UBC after their meeting.

“There is always room for improvement, and there is still a whole lot to improve upon. I see the opportunity for UBC to grow the sustainability community through business and organizational collaborations and partnerships within Vancouver,” said Doering.

“I also suggest to engage in the power of collaborative action to create change — it’s only when people and various groups, organizations, etc work together that positive social, environmental and economic change can occur.”