UBC Undergraduate Research

An investigation into the use of rapidly renewable materials in the Student Union Building Zhou, Zizheng; Stoddard, Levi; Chang, Joey


Stakeholders in the new Student Union Building (SUB) - including students, staff, and residents of UBC – value living socially, environmentally, and economically sustainable lives. As such, the team responsible for designing the new SUB is aiming to produce a building that meets the heralded LEED platinum standard. Using rapidly renewable and/or recyclable materials in the construction of the proposed building would contribute towards the achievement of this goal. This report conducts a triple-bottom-line analysis of two such materials, linoleum and wheat board, based on existing literature. Linoleum is a sheet material that is primarily used for floor covering. When considering the total cost of ownership, linoleum is cheaper than vinyl flooring, yet more expensive than poured epoxy flooring. The social and environmental benefits of linoleum far outweigh those of vinyl and poured epoxy. Vinyl and poured epoxy are both hazardous to the manufacturing and installation staff; require more frequent replacement than linoleum; and are damaging to the environment upon disposal. Linoleum releases less VOC’s than vinyl flooring; can be burned for significant energy when disposed; harmlessly degrades when landfilled; and contributes to multiple LEED point categories. For the aforementioned reasons, linoleum would be an ideal floor covering for the food service areas in the new building. Wheat board is a pressed fiber board consisting of 100% wheat – as opposed to a traditional medium-density fiberboard (MDF) produced from wood products. Wheat board is comparable in cost and strength to its MDF counterpart, yet releases fewer odors into its indoor environment. Wheat board would be an ideal material for constructing tabletops and cabinets in the new SUB building. Disclaimer: “UBC SEEDS provides students with the opportunity to share the findings of their studies, as well as their opinions, conclusions and recommendations with the UBC community. The reader should bear in mind that this is a student project/report and is not an official document of UBC. Furthermore readers should bear in mind that these reports may not reflect the current status of activities at UBC. We urge you to contact the research persons mentioned in a report or the SEEDS Coordinator about the current status of the subject matter of a project/report.”

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