Imagining a Future-Proof Residence Building

CapU’s new residence should be built thinking of its impact on the future, not just in the moment

Wen Zhai // Contributor
MICHELLE LUSSIER // Illustrator

In October, HDR Architecture Associates released new renderings for the six-story residence near the BOSA building, with an increased number of rooms compared to the previous estimates in March. CapU students should have a voice in how it’s made, considering the money they’ll potentially be paying.  

Having been a CapU resident myself for over a year, I’ve noticed that the garbage and recycling are not sorted correctly, and too much water is wasted due to the lack of induction faucets and efficient toilets. There could be more electric hand-dryers as well. These are just some areas where we could be greener in the current building. 

Disposal is often a top priority in dealing with waste, making other options such as diverting waste from landfills or incinerators inconvenient.

Over the years, the university has strived to go green and reduce its carbon footprint. CapU has been a participant in the Carbon Neutral Government Program since 2010 and is set to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent by 2050. The sustainability goals rely on reducing paper consumption, upgrading existing buildings and, more importantly, developing new buildings with advanced technology.

However, the only current “green” plans for the residences so far are for a green space on the dining hall roof. This is far from green—even by CapU standards.

With the continued deterioration of the environment and disastrous global warming symptoms popping up here and there, the Zero Waste Movement has attracted even more attention and gained momentum. According to Zero Waste International Alliance (ZWIA), zero waste is “an ethical, economical, efficient, and visionary goal to guide people to change their practices and ways of life” to encourage sustainable natural cycles of all materials. It is applicable to running a house, a building, a city, or a country. The City of Vancouver recently announced Zero Waste 2040 as a long-term strategic vision to achieve zero waste. 

Zero waste requires the collaboration of many stakeholders, including architects. The City of New York published the Zero Waste Design Guidelines to take building design into account for achieving its goal of sending zero waste to landfill by 2030.  

There’s nothing more meaningful than preparing its students to take on the challenges of combating global warming and conserving scarce resources.

In designing a zero-waste building, HDR needs to rethink its current design to develop more efficient and sustainable practices. Those changes could include incorporating renewable energy options and materials for things like air-conditioning units, sound controlled lights and water-saving faucets.   

HDR should also integrate waste reduction operations into the planning phase to design a coherent system where waste could easily be separated, stored and collected. Disposal is often a top priority in dealing with waste, making other options such as diverting waste from landfills or incinerators inconvenient. Vancouver threw away about 371,000 tonnes of garbage in 2016. Most of the waste was a valuable resource that could have been conserved, reused, recycled, or composted. Considering the inclusion of a dining hall in the building, it’s important that the design supports organics collection and reduces or diverts food waste.  

The “take-make-dispose” linear economy is being replaced by a more environmentally-friendly circular economy, which integrates waste as a resource. It is important to have a circular mindset when designing zero-waste buildings. 

In Envisioning 2030, CapU prides itself in being a university inspired by imagination, one that embraces change and innovation to foster a healthy and happy campus community. There’s nothing more meaningful than preparing its students to take on the challenges of combating global warming and conserving scarce resources. Ensuring the on-campus residence is a high-performing, sustainable building is a great way to raise awareness, educate the community and generate real change.  

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