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UBC and Okanagan College partner on green construction centre

Grant Cameron
UBC and Okanagan College partner on green construction centre

The University of British Columbia (UBC) and Okanagan College have teamed up to create an innovative Green Construction Research & Training Centre (GCRTC) to foster innovation in environmentally-friendly building.

The hub, at UBC’s Okanagan campus in Kelowna, B.C., will provide a multi-disciplinary research and training area where students and researchers can focus on expanding knowledge in areas of green construction.

The formal partnership aims to provide students from the university and college with hands-on practical training opportunities and new ways to research and create building projects using green materials.

“Our core mission is to substantially help the construction industry to introduce innovative technologies, materials and techniques that can help reduce carbon emission,” explains professor Shahria Alam, the first director of the new centre and professor in the university’s school of engineering.

Both the university and college felt it was important to collaborate to inspire students and create new training programs in the region that support a greener and sustainable development.

Ashley Lubyk, a professor in the sustainable construction management technology program at Okanagan College, has been appointed as co-director for the centre.

Alam, whose research focuses on smart materials and their structural applications in infrastructure, says the centre will generate and expand the knowledge in the areas of green, environment-friendly construction, including materials, structural components and systems, and construction management.

“The objectives are to create civil infrastructure that is safe, durable, energy-efficient and affordable through innovative technologies.”

The GCRTC will link academia with industry professionals for sustainable development challenges of the construction industry and develop partnerships with educational institutions, architectural and engineering consulting firms, contractors, developers and various sectors involved in the industry, as well as provincial and federal institutions, to provide world-class training opportunities for post-secondary students and industry professionals.

Alam says research will be conducted at the centre and workshops seminars, short courses and conferences will be held to educate and train students about green construction.

“We regularly invite leading experts in construction industry to provide talks and seminars to bridge the gap between academia and industry in this sector,” says Alam. “This initiative will not only update our local practitioners, but also help our students learn state-of-the-art practices and the upcoming new technologies and ideas.

“This also helps the future generations to tackle the natural hazards, climate change and energy-use challenges in construction and infrastructure.”

In collaboration with various municipalities, provincial bodies, Infrastructure Canada, construction associations and a large team of faculty members, officials at the centre will seek to develop transformative, paradigm-changing research that will be strategically vital to the construction industry, says Alam.

The faculty members will come from a range of disciplines, including structural engineering, materials science, robotics, mechanical and electrical engineering, management, environmental science, economics and sociology.

Both UBC and Okanagan College have existing trades and technology programs and projects related to design and construction of future buildings and, according to Alam, the GCRTC will find synergies between the two institutions wherever possible.

“Sharing ideas and expertise will be at the forefront of our success moving forward,” he explains.

Industry collaborations are also already underway with anticipated spin-off companies, creating a community that supports self-sustainability and local economic development, says Alam.

“We are also open to new collaborations with industries and start-up companies.”

The centre is also planning a series of speakers to educate students. Already, the centre is starting to develop shared capstone projects for students and speakers that focuses on green construction and smart energy use.

“By providing students with new education, training and research experiences, it will get them dialed into the industry and set them up for success,” explains Alam. “The students are the future leaders and innovators that will tackle some of these great sustainability challenges that we face.”

In addition to students, a host of other industry stakeholders will be trained at the centre, including educators, technicians, civil engineers, designers, consulting engineers, contractors and owners as well as facility managers, construction inspectors, inspection agency officials, and asset managers responsible for building maintenance, repairing or rehabilitation of civil infrastructures.

Alam says it’s important to grow the green building sector, and for students and stakeholders in the construction industry to have the tools necessary to innovate in the areas of green construction.

“Green construction goes a step further than sustainability and asks how we can minimize our environmental impact in the construction process,” he says. “Green construction sets an elevated standard when it comes to sustainability, looking for sustainable construction materials, methods and practices that are carbon-neutral or that engage renewable energy sources now and into the future.”

Andrew Hay, vice-president, education at Okanagan College, says the GCRTC ties in extremely well with the institutional focus on sustainability.

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