Green Building at UBC and Northern Voice

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This past week, I’ve had the privilege of attending a prominent and popular social media and blogging conference Northern Voice here in Vancouver.  The conference has been in place for six years, and gathers together the finest minds, and most dedicated life-long learners when it comes to online and offline communicators and community builders.

Photo courtesy of DariusZ

Traditionally, the Northern Voice conference has been held at the University of British Columbia in the Forestry Sciences building.  But, with attendance soaring this year (surely a sign that social media and this thing we call blogging is really beginning to fly…), the setting of the conference was shifted to the newer, and much bigger Life Sciences Building.

Having contributed to this blog for over a year now (!), one of the first things I noticed upon reading about the building is that it’s been LEED gold certified.  And the second was that just being there really enhanced my experience at the conference.  But how? Well, let me tell you …The Life Sciences Building is one of the largest on campus. The building itself is multi-storied and multi-purposed, with labs, lecture halls, and theaters specifically designed for life sciences disciplines. Commissioned by the UBC Properties Trust, architects were engaged to create a space that met the practical requirements of the space, keeping within the contraints of a tight budget, while also meeting the mandate for sustainability.  Of the many sustainability features in the building, a few of the most noticeable are:

  • use of natural light for lighting and warmth to reduce energy consumption
  • no-water urinals
  • insulated cladding over masonry walls to retain heat

The UBC Properties trust has sought to move the campus from being commuter-focused to community focused, utilizing the principles of sustainability and green building to help develop the area as a place to live, to work, and to raise a family.  This community-building idea, and making use of the latest technology to achieve sustainability made me think that the mandates of our Northern Voice conference, and that of the UBC Trust are the same, to wit: building community through technology and innovative thinking.

Photo courtesy of Jeanette Kramer

Green building technology and approach is used as a means of creating a physical space that is welcoming as well as being 0ne that makes the best use of physical placement and natural light.  The building is a monument to the idea of innovation put into practice to benefit the community of students, faculty, and conference-goers, too. How appropriate  that the 2010 Northern Voice Conference should be hosted here, themed as it is on community building in online spaces.

This idea of community building, and green building being represented all in one space was a powerful addition to how I processed a lot of the content at the conference.  I liked the idea that we were discussing new and innovative ways of telling stories, sharing information, and moving forward-thinking to the mainstream, while located in a LEED-gold certified building.

The two ideas of building physical spaces that support the needs of the surrounding community sustainably dovetail nicely with doing the same online through blogs, through podcasts, through social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook.  To me, what’s really the common denominator is the future, and ensuring that awareness for the health of our environment and our relationships with each other within it are recognized as being vital to our quality of life.

To discover more about how UBC has committed to green building, investigate the UBC campus sustainability green buildings page.

To view more pictures of the Life Sciences Building, and some of the people who attended the Northern Voice Conference this year, check out the Northern Voice Photo Pool on Flickr.

Also, to find out more about the building itself, find out how architects designed the Life Sciences Building.



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Rob Jones

Rob served as Editor-In-Chief of BuildDirect Blog: Life At Home from 2007-2016. He is a writer, Dad, content strategist, and music fan.