CAP 2030 Targets and Actions: Campus Operations

Heating and operating buildings account for approximately 97% of UBC total campus operations emissions.
Rooftop garden in the Nest

Reducing campus operations emissions requires infrastructure change and capital investments. To date, these emissions have been successfully reduced by enhancing the energy performance of buildings and district energy supply. 

Heating and operating buildings account for approximately 97% of UBC total campus operations emissions, and the vast majority of these come from burning natural gas (86%), as this fossil fuel has significantly higher GHG emissions than BC’s clean electricity.

Learn more about targets, strategies and actions in each of the below focus areas. 


By 2030, 100% of the energy used by the Academic District Energy System will come from low carbon sources.


The Academic District Energy System (ADES) provides the major source of heat to campus buildings via a network of hot water pipes under campus. Heat for the ADES is provided by renewable biomass from the Bioenergy Research Demonstration Facility (BRDF) and fossil fuel based natural gas from the Campus Energy Centre (CEC). This district energy system has also been the single largest source of UBC’s GHG reductions.

Actions - Immediate – Fall 2021 to 2022

  • Undertake a comprehensive technical and financial feasibility analysis to identify the most promising low carbon energy supply option(s) for the UBCV ADES – this study is already underway and will be completed in 2022, a number of technologies are being investigated through a detailed evaluation process against a number of key criteria.
  • Continue to prioritize energy demand side management efforts to offset all energy increases due to campus growth.
  • Develop a UBC Vancouver campus energy strategy, including developing key guiding principles, to inform UBC's transition to clean energy and net zero emissions.

Actions – Short Term – By 2024

  • Collaborate and explore strategic partnership opportunities with BC's major utilities to increase UBC's access to a diversity of low carbon energy supplies.

Actions – Medium Term – By 2030

  • Implement low carbon ADES supply and demand solutions. Begin with initial projects by 2025, with a goal of achieving 100% low carbon energy by 2030.
  • Explore and evaluate potential solutions to reach and accelerate UBC's net zero target, such as carbon capture, to address the remaining emissions from low carbon energy sources and hard to abate applications. 


By 2030, new buildings and building renewals will target near zero operational emissions, and existing building emissions will be reduced to reach a target developed as part of the Existing Building Decarbonization Plan.


Heating and operating UBC’s buildings represents 97% of total Campus Operations emissions, and this energy currently accounts for about $22 million in annual energy costs. Direct natural gas consumption by buildings (i.e., buildings that are not connected to the ADES) represent about 30% of the total. Ensuring new buildings are built to high performance, existing buildings are strategically retrofitted, and that energy supplied to buildings becomes increasingly low-carbon is imperative for UBC to achieve its bold GHG emission reduction ambitions, minimize energy consumption and reduce escalating carbon costs.

Actions – Immediate – Fall 2021 to 2022

  • Eliminate fossil fuel equipment installation in new and existing buildings, unless sufficient amounts of RNG are secured for the lifetime of the equipment.
  • Develop an Existing Building Decarbonization Plan that integrates with maintenance and renewal programs, and a resourcing strategy to support incremental costs.
  • Develop GHG targets and an action plan for the buildings in the UBC Properties Trust building portfolio that align with the CAP 2030 scope.

Actions – Short Term – By 2024 & Medium Term – By 2030

  • All buildings on campus will connect to the ADES. If the project does not connect to the ADES it should apply for a variance. If projects cannot connect into the ADES they are required to achieve net zero carbon certification (design and operation).
  • Develop and implement new building and renewal project GHG intensity targets by building type, incorporating more energy efficient designs and low carbon energy sources, and creating a life cycle costing process that deals with capital budgets to meet low carbon design requirements.
  • Implement building retrofits strategically as per the above plan (Existing Building Decarbonization Plan) and funding.
  • Research and track building space utilization and changes due to remote activity, and explore opportunities for energy reductions through space utilization and mitigating growth of new floor space.
  • Develop a process to reduce emissions from refrigerants used in buildings.


UBC will only procure new vehicles and equipment that are zero emissions where feasible solutions exist. 


While UBC’s fleet of vehicles and motorized equipment has a relatively small impact on overall GHG emissions, vehicles are a highly visible part of UBC’s operations. 

Between 2007 and 2018, UBC Building Operations reduced UBC fleet GHG emissions by 52% and achieved the only E3 Fleet Platinum rating in Canada. Transitioning to Zero Emissions Vehicles (ZEV) and enabling vehicle sharing among departments can realize significant co-benefits in addition to improving community wellbeing through reduced community harming GHG emissions, including greater overall financial performance and improved quality of fleet services for end users.

Actions – Immediate – Fall 2021 to 2022

  • Explore the expansion of fleet management programs across all UBC vehicles, including additional funding, in order to continue to pursue fleet optimization and increased efficiency.
  • Develop a comprehensive ZEV Charging, Fueling, and Maintenance Strategy to guide ZEV transitions on campus.

Actions – Short Term – by 2023

  • Incorporate a Zero Emissions Vehicle and Equipment First (ZEV First) requirement into existing fleet policy for all new vehicles and equipment, where feasible operational solutions exist.


Implement an internal carbon price to better align financial decision-making criteria with UBC’s climate goals.


Carbon pricing is seen as a key policy tool and a financial mechanism to address climate change. It works by incorporating the true costs of carbon pollution into the decision-making process. So far, external climate policy has lagged behind providing an actual representation of the costs of damages associated with climate change. To address these challenges, CAP 2030 proposes the introduction of an Internal Carbon Price (ICP) to better align financial decision-making criteria with UBC’s climate goals and provide certainty, predictability, consistency and rigor for decision making. Unlike a carbon charge, the internal carbon price does not result in the exchange of money; it is simply used to inform decisions. The application of an internal carbon price can result in more money being invested initially in climate-friendly systems that reduce carbon dioxide emissions; however, it often saves money when factoring in the life cycle cost-benefits of the solution. 

UBC’s internal carbon price represents an overall price ceiling, inclusive of all external pricing instruments, such as carbon offsets and fuel taxes. With the introduction of an internal carbon price, UBC will join the City of Vancouver and Metro Vancouver to create a local cluster of global leadership on carbon pricing.

Actions – Immediate – Fall 2021 to 2021

  • An internal carbon price level of $250/tCO2e has been selected based upon carbon price escalation seen at the provincial and federal levels, which will reduce risks by ensuring that carbon costs are fully accounted for during decision making.
  • Pilot the internal carbon price approach in lifecycle cost analysis for several energy supply, equipment renewal and energy conservation projects.

Actions – Short Term – By 2024

  • Implement the internal carbon price and use life cycle cost analysis to inform decision-making for energy projects (energy supply, energy equipment, energy conservation projects), as well as to fleet purchases and programs.
  • Pilot and implement the internal carbon price and use life cycle cost analysis to inform decision-making on capital and infrastructure planning.

Featured Project

The Bioenergy Research Demonstration Facility produces renewable energy for UBC’s campus using wood waste biomass. This helps reduce UBC’s GHG emissions and supports research projects on innovative clean energy systems.

Learn more about UBC’s innovative Bio-energy facility (BRDF). 

Take Action Now

Whether you’re in a laboratory, office, or residence hall, learn how you can help us to reduce our energy use at UBC, and find resources to help you do it. Working or learning remotely? No problem! Many of these tips can be used to reduce your home energy bill, too.

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