`To lead in sustainability' new director's focus

by Stephen Forgacs
Staff writer

When UBC's C.K. Choi Building opened in 1996, it set a precedent for campus construction as the university's first ecologically friendly building.

Several years and several awards later, it still draws international attention, serving as a model for sustainable design and construction with its composting toilets, on-site grey water treatment, reused and recycled materials and optimum use of natural light and ventilation.

"The Choi building represents a new standard for ecologically friendly construction," says Freda Pagani, who led the project.

Now, as UBC's director of sustainability, Pagani has taken on the giant task of taking the Choi's messages of sustainability campus-wide. It's a challenge, she says, that goes much deeper than reused bricks and energy efficient lighting.

"While I believe technology can assist us in the changes we have to make, what's needed is a change in human behavior and values," she says.

The mission of the Sustainability Office is broad and aimed at developing an economically viable and environmentally responsible campus. This entails consideration of ecological, economic and social issues in strategic planning and development and operations.

Ultimately, Pagani wants to see UBC emerge a leader in sustainable development, with the extensive participation of the campus community.

The office's mandate is in keeping with UBC's Campus Sustainability Policy. Pagani has been at UBC for more than 10 years, mainly in project development and teaching architecture. She is currently finishing her PhD in Resource Management and Environmental Studies.

The initiatives stemming from her office and related areas touch on use of just about everything that flows through campus, from electricity, to paper, to sewage.

One major one, the Energy Management Plan, is aimed at reducing campus power consumption by 20 per cent within seven years, and by as much as 90 per cent by 2040. The plan includes retrofitting buildings with energy-efficient lights while training departmental co-ordinators to promote power smart behavior.

This follows on the heels of initiatives already in place, including recycling area monitors who promote recycling of paper, glass, plastic and metals.

Pagani will work closely with existing programs, including those related to transportation, purchasing, recycling, and waste management. Also, new projects, such as the Liu Centre for International Studies on the north end of campus, provide opportunities to develop sustainable facilities from the ground up.

"A design objective for the Liu Centre is to be better than the Choi in every way," says Pagani.

Another proposal is to collect wastewater and sewage from Thunderbird and Totem Park housing and run-off from B-Lot and reclaim it through a constructed wetland in which plants are used to filter and purify water.

"We have a tremendous range of expertise at UBC on sustainability issues at all levels, whether global or local," says Pagani. "This is an opportunity for faculty, staff and students to help the university demonstrate leadership in this area, not only in terms of research, but also in development and implementation."

Pagani is recruiting volunteers from across campus to serve as area co-ordinators (Green Guides) for the Trek Transportation Program, the Energy Management Plan and the Waste Management Program. She can be contacted at 822-1501 or by e-mail at sustain@interchange.ubc.ca. The Sustainability Office Web site is at www.sustain.ubc.ca.