UBC is uniquely suited to act as a living laboratory. We are a community of over 80,000 students, faculty, staff, and residents. We own and operate our own utilities including electrical, heating, water and waste. And we are responsible for our own roads and infrastructure.

As a public institution, we have a longer planning horizon than many other organizations. While we must carefully plan our finances, we are able to evaluate and consider changes where benefits may accrue over decades or more.

As owner-operators of substantial assets, we are able to be early innovators in areas where others are not ready or equipped to do so. What others might see as a risk, we see as a research challenge. We have the discretion to try new things, and as researchers, we have an incentive to try new things first.

This is the essence of Campus as a Living Laboratory.


We focus on integrating operational and academic sustainability in a way that challenges the UBC community to reach across the traditional boundaries of disciplines, sectors and geographies to affect real-world change.

The four cornerstones of UBC's approach to Campus as a Living Laboratory are:

  • Integrating UBC's core academic mandate (research and teaching) with the University's operations
  • Partnerships between UBC and the private sector, public sector, or NGO organizations
  • Sound financial use of UBC's resources and infrastructure
  • The potential to transfer the knowledge UBC gains into practical, positive action applicable to the greater community.

We are making great strides in transforming our campus into a vibrant and complete sustainable community and, importantly, we are working at a scale that is interesting to other communities. For example, researchers are studying – and operations are implementing – new approaches to UBC's energy generation and distribution systems.

Our hope is that in the long term, because we are representative of many communities, many communities can implement the kinds of sustainability solutions we are exploring.