The building industry is a significant contributor to climate change. Buildings and construction are currently responsible for 39% of all global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (UNE 2017). Since cities are only expected to grow in the coming decades, reducing emissions from the building sector is critical to addressing climate change. As new policies and technologies reduce buildings’ operational energy and emissions, the embodied energy and emissions from building materials choices are becoming proportionally more significant.
Making More Sustainable Material Choices
In alignment with our climate action priorities, UBC is working to advance our understanding of the environmental impacts of materials throughout a building’s full life cycle: resource extraction, production, installation, use, and end-of-life reuse or disposal.
We are developing policies and guidelines to help building designers make material choices that reduce negative environmental impacts, including reducing GHG emissions. We are supporting research to measure and assess the environmental impacts of materials, and working with partners at the local and federal level, to incorporate that information into new projects. Many of our researchers are also involved in the development of new types of sustainable materials and cleaner production processes that can improve Canada’s manufacturing and supply chains.
Through Campus as a Living Lab, UBC is exploring opportunities to pilot the use of low-carbon materials, and ways to measure the impacts, improving the quality of the campus buildings.
Life Cycle Assessment Practice to Estimate Embodied Carbon in Buildings
UBC Mass timber building profiles [Part I]
UBC Mass timber building profiles [Part II]
UBC Mass timber building profiles [Part III]
UBC Embodied Carbon Pilot: Bill of materials generation methodology 
UBC Embodied Carbon Pilot: Study of whole building life cycle assessment processes at the University of British Columbia 
Policy review of Carbon-focused Life Cycle Assessment in Green Building Design and Performance at the University of British Columba [Walker 2020]
Environmental Building Declaration: Brock Commons Tallwood House 
Environmental Building Declaration: Ponderosa Commons Cedar House 
LCA of UBC Biological Sciences Complex Renew Project 
Lessons Learned from Life Cycle Assessment and Life Cycle Costing of Two Residential Towers at the University of British Columbia [Teshnizi et al. 2017]
A Comparative Cradle-to-Gate Life Cycle Assessment of Mid-Rise Office Building Construction Alternatives: Laminated Timber or Reinforced Concrete [Robertson et al., 2012]
The relationship between urban form and GHG emissions [Senbel and Chruch, 2010] Towards net zero buildings assessment framework : a natural capital approach [Hossaini Fard, 2018]
Probabilistic cost models for lifecycle design of buildings [Gill, 2017]