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UNBC power plant earns sustainability award

University of Northern British Columbia's bioenergy plant received an award for sustainability in construction during the Canadian Green Building Awards, held in Toronto on Monday night.
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UNBC president George Iwama holds up the Leed platinum award received for teh Bioenergy plant in August 2013.

University of Northern British Columbia's bioenergy plant received an award for sustainability in construction during the Canadian Green Building Awards, held in Toronto on Monday night.

It was one of only eight buildings this year to receive the honour, which is extended to facilities that "are among the most exemplary sustainably-designed buildings in Canada."

It is also the first building in northern B.C. to earn the honour.

"We're thrilled and honoured," said David Claus, an assistant director of facilities management at the university. "I see it as a recognition of the sustainability efforts we're taken more broadly that this building."

The plant is certified as LEED Platinum, the highest level of LEED certification, recognizing leadership in environmental design. The building features biomass gasification technology from Vancouver-based Nexterra and was designed by Hughes Condon Marler Architects of Vancouver. IDL Projects of Prince George built the plant.

Funded by the federal and provincial governments, it was opened in 2011. Since then, the consumption of fossil fuels to heat the buildings connected to the campus district energy system has decreased by nearly 90 per cent, according to UNBC.

"This project really demonstrated innovation and collaboration among the design consultants, construction management, and client collectively," said Sheldon Boyes, Vice-President of IDL Projects Inc. "It was truly a team approach that led to the LEED Platinum rating and now this Canadian Green Building Award. We're proud to have been part of it."

The award is the latest in a series the project has earned.

The first was in 2010 when UNBC tied with Harvard University for the top campus sustainability project in North America. Others have included a provincial award from the BC Clean Energy Association and local awards for environmental leadership, innovation in technology, and design. In a survey of university students nationwide conducted by the Globe and Mail in 2011, UNBC was tied for first for environmental commitment.

"It is a testament to the university's commitment to sustainability and the project being part of campus-wide initiatives that bumped the building's status to this level," said architect Karen Marler.

The bioenergy plant houses one of two bioenergy systems at UNBC. The other is a wood pellet system at the I.K. Barber Enhanced Forestry Laboratory. It was created by the federal government and the Wood Pellet Association of Canada and consumes pellets donated by Pacific Bioenergy. UNBC is hosting the opening reception for the International Bioenergy Conference and Exhibition in Prince George, which runs Wednesday through Friday of next week.