About Us
Global Focus
Visiting Scholars
Postdoctoral Fellows
PhD Students
Networks & Groups
Master of Public Policy
IR Program
Lind Initiative
Room Booking
Lobby Gallery
About the Building


Forty stakeholders defined the objectives, qualities and sustainable design goals for the project. Architects and project managers worked with 60 sustainable goals throughout the project, including:

Simplicity, stillness
High quality of light
Inspiring, stimulating
Use of recycled and salvaged materials
Life-cycle criteria for material and system selection
Natural ventilation
Minimal energy and water consumption
Reduction of waste


The Liu Institute is located at the edge of a second-growth forest, which provides cooling shade and beautiful views. The Institute has two distinct components, a seminar wing with public spaces for receptions, expositions, and conferences and an office wing, for private, research-related functions. The two wings are connected by a glazed lobby, with two courtyards – one for formal entry and the other for outdoor events.

The building was integrated into the natural environment by:

  • Using the site of the previous Pan-Hellenic House building and parking lot to minimize the impact on the forest
  • Positioning the building to protect a rare, large-specimen Katsura tree at the entry courtyard
  • Creating a stone garden with views form the three main rooms
  • Preserving existing trees on the sited and avoiding excessive soil compaction
  • Using native plants such as ferns and wild grasses to restore the forest floor and minimize irrigation requirements.


Choices of building materials and systems for the Liu Institute were evaluated based on durability, efficiency, embodied energy, environmental impact, contribution to a healthy environment and economic feasibility using a forty-year life cycles cost analysis.

Building design features:

  • Minimal building width to maximize day lighting of the interiors
  • Exposed building systems – concrete floors, timber and concrete ceilings, cable trays, sprinklers and mechanical ducts – to minimize the amount of interior finishing required
  • Free span structures for layout flexibility
  • Natural ventilation systems to minimize energy consumption, capital and operating costs
  • High-performance, low e, argon filled curtain wall system for the office component
  • Covered bicycle stalls and on-site shower facilities with separate entrance to promote sustainable commuting.


  • High quality salvaged materials – bricks, pavers, glulams and structural decking – were collected from recently demolished buildings at UBC and elsewhere
  • The quantity of concrete and cement was minimized by using pre-cast planks and poured-in-place frames with high fly ash content (a partnership by CanMet and GVRD)
  • Green furniture – board room chairs made from recycled pop bottles – and carpet were selected from suppliers with high environmental standards and practices
  • Non-toxic paints and adhesives

Energy Systems:

  • Low energy lighting fixtures with room sensors
  • Ultra-low flush toilets fixtures
  • Waste management system for construction and operation
  • Electrical load sharing with neighbouring buildings to avoid building a new substation
  • Air-to-air heat exchanges for the seminar room
  • Displacement ventilation in the case room which eliminated a ventilation duct system.

Other sustainable features which were evaluated but not implemented due to low cost benefit returns were collecting rainwater for toilet flushing, composting toilets, creating a roof-top garden and using photo-voltaic solar panels to generate energy.


As an example of a sustainable and beautiful solution to building design, construction and operation, the Liu Institute is a reflection of UBC’s commitment to the environment. The Institute sets a high standard for the economical, responsive green architecture. The result inspires a creative, collaborative approach to understanding the global issues and environmental challenges facing us today and in the future.

Facts and figures:

The seminar wing roof was built of salvaged glulam beams and structural decking from the building demolished for the Liu Institute. The beams were lightly sandblasted and fully exposed as a finished heavy timber ceiling.

The Liu Institute is the first Canadian non-industrial building to use a High Volume Fly Ash (HVEA) concrete mix in its construction. Fly ash is a waste by-product of the coal industry with few other uses. Vancouver’s two cement plants produce as much CO2 emissions as 80% of the city’s automobile traffic. The substitution of fly ash for a portion of the cement – in this case, 50% - reduces CO2 pollution (which contributes to global warming). If it becomes standard construction material, HVFA concrete has the potential to reduce world CO2 emissions dramatically.

Use of recycled building materials resulted in a 50-60% cost savings over using new materials of the same type.

Project size: 1750 square metres

Opening date: September 21, 2000

Donors: J. J. Liou and family

Architects: Architectura with Arthur Erikson

Sustainability partner: GVRD

For more information, please contact:

Campus Sustainability
Level 3
Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability
2260 West Mall | Vancouver, BC  Canada V6T 1Z4 

Print Version
Log in
All Rights Reserved© 2007, Liu Institute for Global Issues
Banner Photos by Lindsay Mackenzie
Design by BlendMedia