A faculty at the forefront of sustainability!

FSS atrium and green wallAfter nearly four years of planning and construction, the new Social Sciences Building is finally open. With a surface area of 11 700 square meters, spread out onto 15 stories, this $112.5 million state of the art building provides students, professors and support staff with new spaces for study and group interactions, modern multimedia enabled classrooms and offices. Most importantly however, this building provides a renewed sense of purpose to both the University of Ottawa and the Faculty as we strive to make ours a greener campus and a beacon in sustainability.

With its numerous eco-friendly characteristics, the Social Sciences Building has already set itself apart from other structures on campus. In fact, the Faculty is aiming to achieve LEED Gold Certification, which is an accreditation given to energy efficient buildings meeting specific environmental guidelines. Along every step of the way, the building was designed and constructed with sustainability in mind:

  • Construction materials were selected based on their recycled content as well as their extraction and/or manufacture proximity to the University;
  • An innovative five-storey tall indoor living wall composed of a remarkable array of plants acts as the building's air filtration system;
  • 80% of the building’s heating needs are directly met through heat redistribution.  The heat created by the building’s data centre is recycled and used to heat not only the FSS building but also nearby structures such as the Vanier Hall;
  • The building’s location was strategically chosen to ensure that it would be close to public transit stations and bike paths;
  • Thanks to innovative design, the building consumes 50 % less energy (cooling, heating and lighting) than what is permitted by the Model National Energy Code for Buildings;
  • The building’s exterior features landscaping that does not require irrigation and its roof will boast significant green roof surfaces.

According to Christine Bérubé, a 4th year student in International Development and Globalization who is also involved with some of uOttawa’s green initiatives, the Social Sciences Building is one of many steps to take in the direction towards full sustainability. Bérubé believes that to continue on that path we must change our standards of living, our habits and our perceptions of what sustainability really is: "we really can all make a difference in our everyday lives." Fortunately, the new Social Sciences Building has established a precedent that will likely change future planning and construction projects on our campus.

The Faculty of Social Sciences is delighted to occupy its new facility and is, without a doubt, excited to welcome a students in a green building. Daniel Bader, a 4th year student in International Economics and Development, hopes the building will inspire students: "It’s really great to see the Faculty take the initiative and educate students on the importance of sustainability. I hope it will inspire everyone to make changes of their own, be it at home, school or work." Positioning uOttawa as a leader in sustainable development, we hope the building will also encourage students, professors and staff to take part in various sustainability efforts on and off campus. After all, the University of Ottawa is home to many green initiatives which all play a role in making a difference.

The bottled water ban, which prohibits the sale of bottled water on campus since September 1st 2010, is one of these many successful initiatives. Julie Bilodeau, a third year student, ''made a habit of carrying reusable water bottles and of using campus water fountains.'' Since the ban, the University has spent nearly $150 000 on improving and adding new water fountains on campus to make the average water fountain experience that much more enjoyable for all members of the uOttawa community!

In its continuous support of sustainable transportation, the University has taken steps to make the campus a bike friendly environment. The Bike Share program aims to further encourage cycling to and from campus by offering free bicycle rentals throughout the day and the SFUO’s Bike Coop, a student run service, offers bicycle maintenance and repair workshops as well as access to bike-specific tools. Sustainable transportation on campus isn’t limited to bicycles! uOttawa has, throughout the years, enhanced pedestrian, car-sharing, car-pooling and shuttle service infrastructure and is ideally located in close proximity to the transit way, which students are encouraged to use thanks to discounted student fares.

The list of green initiatives at the University is continuously growing thanks to the Office of Campus Sustainability, which bears responsibility for coordinating, promoting and implementing the University’s sustainable development activities, and to the many initiatives of the university community. The fact that uOttawa was crowned, earlier this year and for the fourth year running, the Canadian Recyclemania champions demonstrates, moreover, that we seek to be constantly at the forefront in the environmental field.

Find out more about uOttawa green initiatives here.