Factor Four: a living lab of sustainability on BCIT campus

British Columbia Institute of Technology

When BCIT first opened its doors in 1964, its mandate was to educate students and produce career-ready graduates that would fuel British Columbia’s economy. Fifty years later and over 160,000 alumni strong, BCIT’s mandate lives on. BCIT’s approach to education is like no other post-secondary institute. BCIT is recognized as one of the leading educational institutes in engineering, health sciences, business, computing, research, trades, apprenticeship and technician programs and applied sciences.

In 1972, the Club of Rome commissioned The Limits to Growth demonstrating that unchecked economic and population growth in a global system of limited natural resources is unsustainable. As a possible solution to the challenges identified in The Limits to Growth, Ernst von Weizäcker and Amory and Hunter Lovins authored Factor Four: Doubling Wealth, Halving Resource Use – A Report to the Club of Rome in 1995. The premise is that currently available technology can be used to halve global resource consumption while doubling global welfare, thereby achieving a fourfold improvement in resource productivity.
BCIT’s School of Construction and the Environment is leading the Factor Four Initiative in the buildings it occupies (7 building covering 320,000 ft2 of floor area). The purpose is to explore whether a 75% reduction (fourfold) in materials and energy use can be achieved without compromising service levels. The primary objective is to provide students with real-life learning opportunities. A reduced ecological footprint, lower operating costs, and campus renewal using unconventional financing are co-benefits. Factor Four follows BCIT’s living lab principles.

BCIT Factor Four in numbers:

  • More than 20 projects implemented across all 7 buildings.
  • More than17 case studies and 60 stories published;
  • More than 250 students directly involved in projects;
  • More than 30 real life drawings (architectural, mechanical, structural and electrical) provided to students for in-class exercises and academic projects;
  • More than 10 real life engineering reports shared with students for in-class review;
  • 19 new energy meters installed with web accessible live data;
  • 10 educational videos produced, including videos on rooftops and in mechanical rooms;
  • Hundreds of building automation system points trended and shared with students for analysis;
  • More than $4M invested;
  • A wood-waste-to-energy facility (under construction), smart ventilation systems, LED lights, solar panels, a fuel cell, geo-exchange and more…