UBC operates multiple centres of excellence and interdisciplinary research groups in order to address complex sustainability issues at different scales, and respond to critical community needs. Explore the research groups hosted at our Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability, and find out more about the campus as a living lab themes we’re exploring. 


The Urban Innovation Research Group supports interdisciplinary research capabilities and strengthens the role of the university in responding to the complex and interconnected challenges of an increasingly urban world. The group has evolved from the Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability research program and continues to develop collaborations with academic researchers, professional practitioners and policy-makers around sustainable building and innovative urban development projects. 

The work has two components: advancing UBC Campus as a Living Lab initiative and developing new Urban Living Lab partnerships to create opportunities on- and off-campus for applied research and learning to inform sustainability practices, planning and policies. 

Director: Angelique Pilon, UBC Sustainability Initiative

Featured Research: Tallwood Building Research Program

UBC recently completed Brock Commons Tallwood House, the tallest hybrid mass timber building in the world. A three-year interdisciplinary research project by UBC’s Sustainability Initiative and faculty in Forestry and Civil Engineering studied the design, construction and performance of this innovative mass timber high rise.

The results, documented in a series of case studies, show how the alignment of advanced computer modelling with prefabrication technology and the use of mass timber improved construction productivity, safety, and accuracy. The work also highlights the creative strategies and lessons learned from the integrated design and construction teams to inform future projects and policies related to tall wood buildings.



elementslab is an applied urban design and environment research group in the School of Architecture + Landscape Architecture and the Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability at UBC. The team works with academic collaborators and professional partners to create new knowledge and design processes for the integration of urban form and environment, across scales from individual building to neighbourhoods to regions. elementslab’s community-based work has influenced the development of urban design tools, guidelines and prototype projects in the United States and Canada. 

Faculty leads: Ron Kellett and Cynthia Girling, School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture

Featured Research: Energy Efficiency in the Built Environment

This multi-year, multi-disciplinary Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions-funded research program investigates energy and emissions in the built environment from the scale of building systems to entire cities. 

In collaboration with co-investigators from UBC Vancouver, SFU and UBC Okanagan, the elementslabresearches practical, implementable solutions for BC municipalities to reduce energy demand and GHG emissions in their built environments. 

Research projects within this program investigate community-scale solutions, new construction standards, building energy retrofits, building lifecycle assessment, financial mechanisms to reduce emissions, and effective policy mechanisms at all levels of government.



An interdisciplinary research team in the Faculty of Forestry, the Collaborative for Advanced Landscape Planning (CALP) focuses on community-based research to develop solutions for sustainability and climate change by bringing science and modeling, environmental design, visualizations, and participatory visioning processes to planning low-carbon, resilient communities.

CALP works within communities with partnerships in the private, public and non-profit sectors. 

Director: Dr. Stephen Sheppard, Department of Forest Sciences
Participating faculty: Kees Lokman, School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture

Featured research: Data integration for health, greenspace, and climate resilience across the Cascadia corridor

Research demonstrates strong links between nature and levels of human health and wellbeing. However, relationships between urban forestry practice, health outcomes on the ground, and emerging climate change impacts and solutions have yet to be clearly established. 

This project brings together leading urban forestry and health researchers from UBC and The University of Washington with partners from health authorities in south west BC, and the City of Surrey. The research forms the first step in creating a corridor-wide data platform concerning nature, human health & community resilience planning, with metro Seattle and Vancouver to become the first hubs of a broader network.



The core research themes at SauderS3i are building the low carbon economy, social innovation, and impact investing. The goal is to build intellectual and human capacity by linking knowledge with action to further the field of sustainability and social innovation. 

Director: Dr. James Tansey, Sauder School of Business 

Featured research: Social and environmental impact investing in Indigenous communities

Reconciliation issues remain at the forefront of Canadian policy and culture. Government, non-profits and charities, and indigenous communities have begun to interact on ways to address these issues, but private investors can play a major role as well. 

Working with Purpose Capital, an impact investment advisory firm, Sauder S3i produced a report that examines a critical question in the Canadian investment community.

With an estimated $10.5 billion available for investments towards social and environmental impact, how can we allocate capital to contribute to the betterment of Indigenous communities in Canada?



The Urban Data Analytics Group is a new interdisciplinary initiative to develop an integrated data platform to facilitate the use of UBC campus building and infrastructure data for research purpose. Partnering with campus departments including Energy and Water Services, the group is developing use cases to test and refine the system architecture and protocols, in order to address accessibility and usefulness while protecting privacy and other security concerns. The project is aligned with UBC Data Governance and Open Data efforts. 

Participating faculty: Dr. Adam Rysanek, School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture; Dr. Martino Tran, School of Community and Regional Planning; Dr. James Tansey, Sauder School of Business


The Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions is a research and engagement network across four collaborating research universities – University of British Columbia, University of Victoria, Simon Fraser University, and University of Northern British Columbia.