There’s an air of excitement at UBC as the campus community prepares to welcome athletes and spectators during the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games and showcase its commitment to sustainability.
As an Olympic competition venue, the UBC Thunderbird Arena (also known as the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre) will host 17 Olympic ice hockey games and 20 Paralympic sledge hockey games. The arena was built in the 1960s and is a fitting venue, considering its rich history. Canada’s National Hockey Program was born at the arena in 1963, in preparation for the Innsbruck 1964 Olympic Winter games in Austria.
The arena was redeveloped from 2006 to 2008 to rejuvenate and expand the facility in time for the Olympics, and to reflect the shared environmental, social and economic sustainability goals of UBC and the Vancouver Organizing Committee (VANOC).
The arena has a highly-efficient floor plan inside, and the building site takes advantage of existing road and pedestrian networks and is situated close to public transportation. The arena’s designers used the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) green building rating system as a framework to address sustainability across all environmental performance categories. The facility achieved a LEED Silver performance standard, meeting VANOC’s progressive requirements for sustainability.
In addition to hockey and ice skating programs, the arena accommodates over 40,000 users monthly through public programs, leagues, special events, concerts and fitness-related programs, to make the most of the facility.
Sports facilities require a significant amount of energy to operate, especially ice rinks and pools. UBC and VANOC found ways to convert the arena into a world-class winter sports facility and meet the building’s ice maintenance, ventilation, de-humidification and lighting needs in sustainable ways.
“Typically those are challenges, but we took them as positives, because we felt there was a lot of opportunity to improve the standards and also be leaders in the development of some of these facilities,” says Kavie Toor, Associate Director of Facilities and Business Development for UBC Athletics and Recreation. “Although there are limitations, you still can achieve substantial energy savings by doing some of the things that we’ve done.”
One of the highlights of the redeveloped arena is the ECO CHILL® energy system. This new technology recycles all the energy used to maintain the ice surface back into the arena’s heating system, making use of waste energy that would normally be flushed out of the building.
The arena also uses electric ice resurfacers, which keep energy use to a minimum and don’t impact air quality. Often referred to as a Zamboni®, an ice resurfacer is typically fuelled by propane. “Not only is there energy wasted when they’re running sometimes three times an hour if you’re running multiple rinks, but there’s also a considerable amount of emissions that go into the playing area and into the stands,” Toor says.
To remove moist air from the building and dressing rooms, the arena uses an efficient de-humidifying system that runs about eight to 10 hours a day, compared to the arena’s old system that ran 24 hours a day. The building also uses energy-efficient lighting with sensors and control systems that turn lights off when a space is unoccupied.
Water conservation is a priority as well, and the arena has low-flush toilets and timed showers. Outside the arena, the building’s irrigation system was designed on slopes, allowing water to flow downwards and irrigate plants and landscaping.
Reusing existing components was an important part of the arena’s redevelopment process. Instead of demolishing the whole building, UBC and VANOC kept one ice rink that was still in good shape and upgraded its outdated mechanical and electrical systems.
The arena’s sustainable features may go unnoticed by visitors and users, but they won’t miss the six permanent Aboriginal art installations that grace the arena’s interior and exterior spaces.