UBCO’s x̌əl sic snpax̌nwixʷtn will house world’s largest underground earth tubes

UBCO’s innovative x̌əl sic snpax̌nwixʷtn building for interdisciplinary collaboration will foster a holistic approach to learning and research through 5 core principles: Indigeneity, Interdisciplinary and Community Engagement, Flexibility, Wellbeing, and Sustainability.

Exemplifying Sustainability, it will utilize eco-conscious mechanical systems, including the world’s largest underground earth tubes, an energy-efficient way to heat and cool a building.

The earth tube system, developed by reLoad Sustainable Design Inc. and Archineers Consulting, comprises underground pipes that stretch 120 meters around the perimeter of the building, four meters below grade. The pipes draw air underground and harness the ambient soil temperatures to passively heat and cool the building. In winter, the underground air is warmer than the exterior, providing an efficient heating source, while in summer, the subterranean air proves cooler, offering a natural means of cooling. The air is then subsequently passed through the building’s existing ventilation systems, reducing the energy consumption typically required to mechanically heat and cool a building.

Along with their sustainability benefits, another advantage of earth tubes is that they require less maintenance compared to traditional heating and cooling systems. This not only translates to reduced operational costs and minimal disruptions but also underscores the longevity and long-term sustainability of the building.

The earth tube at the x̌əl sic snpax̌nwixʷtn  building is projected to reduce the annual net heating load by 34%, annual net cooling load by 17%, and will contribute to a forecasted annual energy consumption reduction of 11%. In addition, this strategy will effectively reduce the peak thermal loads on the campus district energy system that has high utility cost demand charges, saving a total of 31% in energy. Compared to a LEED baseline, the building reduces energy consumption by 63% and carbon emissions by 92%.”

— Martina Soderlund, P.Eng., BEMP, LEED AP
Principal, Building Performance Specialist | reLoad Sustaiable Design Inc.

Dr. Trevor Butler, Owner, Archineers

The x̌əl sic snpax̌nwixʷtn building serves as a testament to UBC’s commitment to environmental stewardship and technological innovation. Earth tubes set the stage for further advancements in energy-efficient building solutions. Through the successful integration of this initiative, UBC Okanagan is not only pioneering a groundbreaking facility for collaborative learning but also demonstrating leadership in sustainable design and construction, inspiring future generations to embrace eco-conscious practices.