The University of British Columbia is constantly looking for ways to lead by example when it comes to sustainability. As the educator of future climate change scientists, urban planners, conservationists and forward-thinking engineers, the District Energy Centre plays a crucial role in reducing the university’s greenhouse gas emissions – and provides valuable data as a “living lab”. Its fully-glazed façade allows the public to observe its inner workings from the street and organized tours are available.

Project Essentials

  • LocationVancouver, BC
  • ClientUBC Properties Trust
  • ArchitectDIALOG
  • Size21,300 ft² (1978 m²)
  • BudgetC$18 million
  • Sustainable Features Certified LEED Gold

The two-storey District Energy Centre replaces an old steam boiler plant constructed in 1925. Its new high-efficiency water heating plant and district hot-water distribution loop has reduced a third of emissions.

The primary structure of the double-boiler area is a glue-laminated timber post and beam frame, with enclosing walls of seven ply cross-laminated timber panels (245mm thick) and sloping cross-laminated timber roof panels. The 20m-high panels give the vast space a sense of warmth, uncommon for an industrial building.

Fast + Epp was selected to engineer this mass timber structure, given our firm’s familiarity with new wood technologies for industrial and commercial buildings. Cross-laminated timber panels were chosen for their strength, durability, appearance and sustainable attributes. They were also deemed cost-competitive with a steel solution.


  • Canadian Wood Council

    2019 Institutional Wood Design - Large