Climate Ready Requirements for UBC Buildings

UBC's Climate Ready Requirements are part of the Green Building Action Plan's Climate Adaptation component and have recently been updated (December 2020).

Applicable for Tiers 1, 2 and 3A*

Climate Change Context

Current climate models project an overall 3°C increase in temperatures globally by 2050.

Regionally we expect increasing daytime and nighttime temperatures, longer summer dry spells, as well as increased precipitation and extreme weather events(1). These changes have major implications for UBC buildings which have a service life of up to 100 years. 

Higher temperatures will change thermal comfort needs in buildings and stormwater infrastructure will need to be designed to withstand increased quantity and more frequent extreme weather events. New approaches to water use and interior air quality will also need to be considered to accommodate dry spells.

In the context of energy supply for buildings, Metro Vancouver Climate 2050 projects that annual heating demands for buildings will decrease by 29%, while cooling demand will increase to nearly 6 times what is currently required(1). In terms of rainwater management, building stormwater systems and downstream facilities will need to accommodate 5% increase in annual precipitation occurring mainly in the fall, winter and spring with a decreased rainfall in the summer. An unequal distribution of precipitation throughout the year means that there could be an increase in precipitation as high as 11% in the fall(2).  With higher temperatures and more dry spells there will be an increased frequency and severity of regional water use restrictions and increased risk of fire. New approaches to water use and interior air quality need to be considered.

Changes to the design, construction, and operation of buildings and landscapes are necessary to adapt to the future climate at UBC. Through the early integration of up-to-date research into project design, UBC can take action for a more climate adaptive and resilient campus.

*Tier 1 Buildings: Large, >1000m2, >$5 million; Tier 2 Buildings: Small, <1000 m2, >$5 million; Tier 3A Major Project Renovations: Renewals (includes envelope and mechanical system upgrades)

Climate Ready Requirements

The intent of the Climate Ready Requirements for UBC Buildings is for project teams to incorporate key design strategies and identify future retrofits that will reduce risk and life cycle costs of the university’s buildings due to predicted climate change in our region.  Currently UBC is focusing on the following areas of building design: thermal comfort, rainwater management, landscape design and outdoor water use, and air quality.  The detailed requirements are identified are described below.

Thermal Comfort 

Passive First Approach

  1. UBC encourages the use of passive measures to be considered initially and active measures to be considered if needed to reach performance requirements with mixed mode strategies.  Passive measures include for example: addressing orientation and window to wall ratio; providing climate responsive landscape design that reduces building heat gain; exterior shading; and limiting internal heat gains through high efficiency lighting and equipment.
  2. Passive cooling should be employed when possible to reduce equipment runtime and energy consumption, while mechanical cooling equipment can be used to satisfy peak cooling demand.
  3. Mixed-mode ventilation should be considered as a solution to take advantage of natural ventilation opportunities. For example, atriums might be naturally ventilated while the rest of the building is mechanically ventilated.


  1. If the thermal model shows that active cooling is required in the current climate to meet any of the following requirements, active cooling should be integrated into the current project design:
    1. Applicable code requirements
    2. Project space use requirements
    3. UBC’s Indoor Thermal Environment Technical Guidelines
  2. If the thermal model shows that thermal comfort can be maintained without active cooling in the current climate, but active cooling will be required in the 2050s climate, there are two options:
    1. Design building with active cooling (preferred), or
    2. Provide a pathway for easy retrofits in the future such that cooling can be installed in the future when it will be needed.
      Examples of a pathway include: providing space in air handlers for future cooling coils; designing heating coils as switchover coils, so they can be used for cooling in the future; roughing in for future cooling equipment inside the building; or installing piping for future use or sizing hot water piping for cooling and insulating appropriately, if the intent is to run it as switchover piping.
  3. If the thermal model shows that thermal comfort can be maintained in the 2050s climate without active cooling, an option is available not to install active cooling, and to rely on well-designed passive cooling strategies to prevent overheating.

Energy Modelling Guidance

  1. Perform thermal comfort modelling of buildings with PCIC future climate files using YVR as the location (2050’s, RCP 8.5 scenario) with attention paid to the warmest spaces in the building. Modelling should be performed for the months of May to September inclusive and results should be used to inform design decisions that will ensure thermal comfort in 2050.
  2. For energy calculations, the Government of Canada’s 2016 Canadian Weather Year for Energy Calculation (CWEC) should be used.

Rainwater Management 


  1. Buildings must meet current code, project requirements and the rainwater management requirements in the LEED Implementation Guide, the current Integrated Stormwater Management Plan and the UBC Technical Guidelines.
  2. New buildings should additionally be adaptable to the climate in 2100. Submit a description of a cost effective pathway for new buildings to manage rainfall for the predicted 2100 moderate rainfall patterns for Zone 1 (4) (IDF curves are available per the Study of the Impacts of Climate Change and Precipitation and Stormwater Management by Metro Vancouver in 2018).  Examples of pathways include for provision of area for future detention facility, additional area for absorptive landscape, potential for blue/ green roof implementation, potential black water or grey water recycling, etc. 

Landscaping and Water Use 


  1. Design for a climate-adaptive landscape with resiliency to drought and watering restrictions:
    1. Plant native, climatically appropriate trees and other vegetation and climate adaptive landscapes (see Metro Vancouver's Urban Forest Climate Adaptation Framework).
    2. Ensure soil depth and other design parameters support landscape resiliency.
    3. Where appropriate provide pathways for future alternative water sources and systems, in particular rainwater harvesting and water storage for seasonal irrigation, toilet flushing and/or emergency use.  Examples of pathways include roof design for rainwater collection and provisions for installation of future water storage, piping and equipment

Indoor Air Quality 


  1. Evaluate individual projects to determine current and future requirements for additional indoor air quality strategies.
  2. Recommend measures for consideration that maintain interior air quality for the predicted climate in 2050 particularly in the case of smoke events. 
    1. Examples might include: potential for high performing secondary filters in air handling equipment or areas of refuge within the building that could have appropriately filtered air.

Schedule for Climate Ready Requirements

The timeline for requirements is tied to project workshops (see the Integrated Design Process).

  1. At the schematic design phase: Step 3A Preliminary Energy and Water Workshop:
    1. Provide approaches to passive and active measures for climate adaptive thermal comfort, rainwater management, landscape design and indoor air quality. Identify opportunities where cost effective climate adaptation measures can be incorporated into current and future designs.
  2. At design development phase: Step 3C Interactive Energy Workshop:
    1. Present thermal comfort modelling results using future climate data at workshop.  
    2. Evaluate climate ready strategies for thermal comfort.
    3. Evaluate early climate ready strategies for rainwater management.
  3. Prior to Building Permit submission: Step 4 Sustainability Reporting:
    1. Submit a narrative summarizing the strategies used to meet the Climate Ready Requirements for UBC Buildings.

Related Policies and Guidelines

(1) Metro Vancouver. 2018. Climate Projections for Metro Vancouver.

(2) Study of the Impacts of Climate Change on Precipitation and Stormwater Management prepared for Greater Vancouver Sewerage and drainage district.

(3) International Panel on Climate Change Glossary.

(4) Zone definition from the Study of the Impacts of Climate Change on Precipitation and Stormwater Management prepared for Greater Vancouver Sewerage and drainage district.