Periodically on the blog, we will profile projects that are undertaking the Living Building Challenge in order to illustrate how the LBC is being met around the world. Today’s post: The VanDusen Botanical Garden Visitor Centre in Vancouver, BC.
LBC Project Profile: VanDusen Botanical Garden Visitor Centre
Target: Full LBC Certification
Status: Opened and occupied, LBC certification in progress
The VanDusen Botanical Garden Visitor Centre, located in Vancouver BC, is currently pursuing full Living Building Challenge certification. Recently awarded LEED Platinum, the Visitor Centre creates a harmonious balance between architecture and landscape—from both a visual and an ecological perspective. Inspired by the organic forms and natural systems of a native orchid, the project is organized into undulating green roof ‘petals’ that float above rammed earth and concrete walls.
These petals and stems are connected by a vegetated land ramp that links the roof to the ground plane, encouraging use by local fauna. The building uses on-site, renewable energy sources—geothermal boreholes, solar photovoltaics, solar hot water tubes—to achieve net-zero energy on an annual basis. Wood is the primary building material, sequestering enough carbon to achieve carbon neutrality.
Rainwater is filtered and used for the building’s greywater requirements; 100% of blackwater is treated by an on-site bioreactor and released into a new feature percolation field and garden. Natural ventilation is assisted by a solar chimney, composed of an operable glazed oculus and an aluminum heatsink, which converts the sun’s rays to convection energy. Summer sun shines on darker surfaces to enhance ventilation further. Located in the centre of the atrium, and exactly at the centre of all the building’s various radiating geometry, the solar chimney highlights the role of sustainability by form and function.
A quick summary of how the VanDusen Centre is targeting each LBC petal:
- The building was sited to preserve rare trees, shrubs and other plants in the garden.
- The surrounding native plant landscape, including the green roof, features bilingual English-Musqueam plant labels and is perfectly adapted to the local climate.
- Building and landscape water use comes from captured precipitation, where permitted by building code.
- Blackwater and greywater is treated on site—for the first time in a building in Vancouver in over 45 years.
- The building is designed to be net-zero energy on an annual basis.
- Solar hot water tubes (176,000 kWh), PV panels (11,000 kWh) and a geoexchange system are employed in the energy strategy.
- The design focuses on the major conditions that must be present for a healthy interior environment to occur.
- Materials used throughout the Centre have been rigorously researched and documented for material health at all levels of their life cycle.
- The Centre reverses the trend of land degradation and invites nature’s functions into a healthier interface with built and natural systems.
- This project contains design features intended solely for human delight and the celebration of culture, spirit and place appropriate to the function of the building