By Alberto Galina Mendoza

The arms of the UBC living lab initiative are reaching out to the world and this time working with one of the largest property developers in China to advance the sustainability movement in both countries.

John Robinson, executive director of the UBC Sustainability Initiative (USI); Alberto Cayuela, associate director of the USI and the Centre for Interactive Research in Sustainability (CIRS); Ryan Smith, senior associate director development at UBC’s Faculty of Science; and Leon Hawkins, business development leader with Honeywell, a strategic partner of UBC visited Beijing, China in April 2012, as part of a partnership agreement between Modern Green Developments Ltd. and UBC.

During this trip, the UBC team saw first-hand the high proficiency of green technologies applied by Modern Green in residential housing in China, at large scales not seen in Canada. These technologies include a smart design that combines the use of high indoor air quality ventilation, hot water circulated through a piping system in every living unit as an efficient space heating solution, and the design of shades and windows to allow natural illumination while refracting heat.

Modern Green buildings visited by the UBC team while in Beijing included the Grand MOMA, an eight-building compound linked by an elevated corridor and including a theatre and hotel, and MOMA Forest Forever, a luxurious low-density residential housing compound.

The UBC team completed an intensive working schedule that included a presentation to MOMA executives and top researchers on the CIRS model and concept of sustainable buildings.

Knowledge transfer is a key component of the partnership between UBC and Modern Green.  “CIRS is more like a model we are learning from,” says Robbie Zhang, representative of Modern Green Developments Ltd in Canada. “We want UBC professors to go to China and our engineers to come here… to study the most advanced technologies that Modern Green can use.”

According to Zhang, before deciding to base their first North American project at UBC in Vancouver, Modern Green searched for partnerships in Europe, the United States and Toronto. “We were looking for a land or a place to develop a real research and development centre for green building technologies,” says Zhang, explaining that in China growth is so rapid that there is no time for research.

UBC’s strategic partnership with Modern Green is a fine example of the University’s Campus as a Living Lab initiative that aims to align UBC’s operational needs with research activities using green technologies on the campus, with the intention of proving approaches that can be adopted in the marketplace.

The use of these technologies on campus has already helped UBC achieve the Kyoto accord greenhouse gas emission (GHG) reduction targets 5 years ahead of schedule. Continuing with this progressive initiative UBC aims to reduce its GHG emissions by 33% by 2015, 67% by 2020 and ultimately achieve zero GHG emissions by 2050.

The meeting in Beijing cemented the partnership between Modern Green Development Ltd and UBC, which has resulted in new sustainable residential building construction on campus.

The Yu building, presently under construction in the south campus neighbourhood, incorporates the smart design of Modern Green and the sustainability expertise of UBC to produce an exceptional residential building. The Yu will not only house people, it will also host a research and development centre to advance green residential technology.

The Yu residential building is expected to open in November 2012. Yu in the Chinese language means “green.”