Net-Zero Water Use Drives Design of Sustainability Center

June 15, 2015 |

At the University of British Columbia’s Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability (CIRS), the concept of the water cycle has guided the design of the building. Supplying 100% of the facility’s potable water needs, rainwater is harvested from the high-albedo roofs, stored in a below-ground cistern, filtered, disinfected on-site, and distributed through the building for potable water applications.

Designers at Perkins+Will specified a solar aquatics biofiltration system to treat and reuse 100% of the building’s wastewater within the facility. Water collected from fixtures throughout the building is treated and then reused within the building for irrigation and toilet flushing, creating a closed-loop water cycle.

The solar aquatics system mimics the purification processes of naturally occurring water systems in close proximity to human inhabitation, such as streams and wetlands.

Low-flow and low-flush plumbing fixtures and drought-resistant native landscaping reduce water demand, and planted roof surfaces and water retention ponds mitigate stormwater runoff.

The projected potable water consumption from off-site sources is zero, which the building team calls “a 100% improvement from the reference building.” The solar aquatic system is located in an isolated glass-walled room in the building’s southwest corner, for all on the campus to see. This highly visible corner is adjacent to the University of British Columbia’s so-called Sustainability Street, engaging pedestrians with the systems and ideas behind water savings.

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