The Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability (CIRS) serves as both a hub for sustainability work on campus, as well as a sustainable building research subject. An internationally recognized interdisciplinary centre, CIRS embodies UBC’s Campus as a Living Lab approach to testing new ideas and sharing knowledge about sustainable building technologies and performance.

Designed on the principles of regenerative sustainability as outlined by Dr. John Robinson­ – the active restoration and regeneration of the environment; and the active pursuit of improvements in the well-being of the community – the CIRS project is an opportunity to better understand the practical applicability of these principles and the implications for long-term performance and use of the building. 

Recognizing that the building project is a work in progress, UBC endeavours to share information from the design, operations and research so that others can learn from the successes and challenges.


CIRS serves a dual purpose as an interdisciplinary hub as well as a sustainable building research subject. As the flagship demonstration project of UBC’s Campus as a Living Laboratory Initiative, CIRS was the first UBC project to comprehensively document the design and construction process, as well as collect data on the performance of the building and engage building inhabitants in research studies.  

An academic building, CIRS houses offices, meeting rooms and labs. The building design incorporates passive strategies for daylighting and natural ventilation, and utilizes a combination of renewable and innovative energy systems, including a geothermal system, photovoltaics, solar thermal hot water and heat exchange with an adjacent building. 

The building structure is a hybrid of concrete and mass timber, with glue-laminate (glulam) columns and beams, and floors of lumber decking sourced regionally from pine-beetle infested forests. While the structural integrity of the wood is not compromised, trees killed by the pine beetle are a major fire hazard for Western Canada. The wood in CIRS is estimated to sequester the equivalent of 600 tonnes of carbon dioxide. 

Landscaping and proximity to nature are key components of building design. The building is surrounded by natural plantings and the landscape is designed to channel stormwater runoff into the local aquifer. A living wall on the west facade provides seasonal solar shading. An intensive living roof with local and adaptive plants creates a habitat for insects and birds. 

CIRS has achieved Canada Green Building Councils LEED Platinum certification andobtained a number of sustainability and high-performance awards. More information on the design of the building and systems can be found online in the CIRS Building Manual.


CIRS is home to a variety of sustainability related research and educational groups, as well as planning and operations departments. 

The building is equipped with a robust network of sensors and controls to optimize and document building performance, and the data supports research projects on topics such as renewable energy technology, system optimization, water reuse, performance gap and inhabitant behavior.




CIRS Building Overview [2016]
CIRS: Test Lab for Sustainability [HPB, Spring 2015]
CIRS Wood Building Case Study [2012]
LEED Narrative [Perkins+Will 2012]


Normalizing sustainability in a regenerative building: the social practice of being at CIRS [Coleman 2016]
Understanding the performance gap: an evaluation of the energy efficiency of three high-performance buildings in BC [Chu 2016]
CIRS pre-occupancy evaluation: inhabitant feedback processes and possibilities for a regenerative place [Reckermann, 2014]
Application of life-cycle approaches for the evaluation of high-performance buildings [Storey, 2014]
An investigation of the indoor environmental quality of a sustainable building at UBC [Lei, 2014]
'Smart' energy systems and networked buildings: examining the integrations, controls, and experience of design through operations [Fedoruk, 2013]
Bridging the gap between theory and practice of green building water systems [Badiei, 2017]


A case study: The energy performance gap of the Center for Interactive Research on Sustainability at the University of British Columbia [Salehi et al., 2015]
Did pursuing LEED make the CIRS building more energy efficient? [Salehi et al., 2015]
Learning from failure: understanding the anticipated–achieved building energy performance gap [Fedoruk et al., 2015]
Comparing Design and As-Built Simulations with Actual Measurements for a Large Multi-Use University Building [Terim Cavka et al., 2014]
Building Performance Evaluation for the Centre for Interactive Reserch on Sustainability [Chu et al., 2014] and Poster
Improving the performance of a whole-building energy modeling tool by using post-occupancy measured data [Salehi et al., 2013]
A Sustainable Building Promotes Pro-Environmental Behavior: An Observational Study on Food Disposal [Wu DW–L et al., 2013]

SEEDS Projects

Real-Time Energy Consumption Display [Zhao et al., 2018]
Pollinator Homes on UBC Campus [Satterfield et al., 2018]
Standing Desk Wellbeing Analysis [2017-2018]
Promoting Interaction through Kitchen Usage [2017-2018]
Promoting Collaboration through Shared Spaces [2017-2018]
Plants Promoting Happiness [2017-2018]
GreenFlux: Communicating Sustainability Through Photovoice [2017-2018]
CIRS Washrooms and Perceptions of Inclusion [2017-2018] 
CIRS Stair Usage [2017-2018]
CIRS Building Inclusiveness [2017-2018]
Amenities to Activity: Identifying the Influences on Active Transportation [2017-2018]
The Sound of Sustainability:  An Examination of Sound Sustainability in the Center for Integrated Research on Sustainability and UBC Farms [2016-2017]
Dynamic Projector Mount [2016-2017]
Life Cycle Assessment - Center for Interactive Research on Sustainability (C I R S) [Sianchuk 2014]
Life Cycle Assessment - Center for Interactive Research on Sustainability (C I R S) [Sianchuk, Harris 2014]
An Investigation into a CIRS style Solar Aquatic System at the UBC Farm [2011-2012]
CIRS Auditorium Ventilation System: Adequacy Assessment, Energy Consumption and Comfort of the Living Space Provided Adequacy Assessment, Energy Consumption and Comfort of the Living Space Provided [2011-2012]
An Investigation into the Applicability of the CIRS Solar Aquatic Wastewater Treatment System at UBC Farm [2011-2012]