UBC Okanagan campus in Kelowna. (Contributed) UBC Okanagan campus in Kelowna. (Contributed)

Zero-emission student housing planned at UBC Okanagan

The Skeena project will open in September 2020

UBC Okanagan will soon offer substantial environmentally friendly student housing.

A plan to bring a $18.7 million and zero emission housing project has started on campus and for Dave Waldron, it represents a window into the future.

The new affordable housing project for students, called Skeena, is being built to an energy-efficient Passive House standard that will run without using fossil fuels.

“This really is a bold step forward,” said Waldron, UBC Okanagan’s former director of campus planning and development.

“Part of the beauty of the Passive House concept is its simplicity. Essentially, what you’re doing is making a super-efficient shell compared to conventional buildings.”

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Waldron was part of the team that helped bring the Skeena project to life with the help of the $18.7-million loan from the B.C. government. When the building officially opens in September 2020, it will house 220 students on six floors, five of which will be built with a wood frame on a concrete base.

“The best way to conserve energy is to simply not need it in the first place, whether it’s for heating or cooling. With Passive House buildings, you invest in your structure as opposed to a bunch of fancy mechanical and electrical bells and whistles, which makes it really long lasting because there aren’t as many moving parts.”

The Passive House standard is a successfully tested building standard for energy efficient, comfortable and affordable house construction.

Once up and running, Skeena will be equivalent to a net-zero energy-ready building. This means it will be so efficient, it could meet all its energy needs with renewable energy generation on site, such as solar or geothermal.

“UBC is always trying to push the envelope, but not break the bank while doing it. I think that’s really important because if you just build the most advanced environmental building with no thought to cost, it’s not going to be that useful for the majority of builders.”

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For Waldron, carbon-neutral programs provides an important incentive to drive further climate action to get to the university’s goal of zero carbon.

“Eventually, that’s where we need to get to. It’s the ultimate goal – carbon neutral, you want to get there. Exactly what that looks like hasn’t been finalized yet, but UBC has taken a lot of positive steps that will help achieve that down the road.”

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