UBC Third Space Commons: An Award Winning Design

May 9, 2023

UBC Third Space Commons aerial shot

Vancouver, BC. At Ledcor, we continually seek to work with clients on projects that align with our sustainability priorities. The University of British Columbia’s (UBC) Third Space Commons is a minimal carbon, live-work single-family home designed and constructed to compete in the 2023 U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon Build Challenge.  

A collaborative effort between student-led Third Quadrant Design, Ledcor, and several of our industry partners, the goal of Third Space Commons was to demonstrate innovative sustainable building solutions to achieve net zero carbon. The primary focus was hempcrete, a material that has been emerging worldwide as a structural alternative to concrete and/or used for insulation due to its carbon negative nature – it sequesters carbon from the air. Composed of hemp fibers, water, and a lime binder, hempcrete has several benefits: it is highly resistant to pests, fire, and mold; has excellent insulation properties to reduce energy costs; is lighter, easier and faster to work with than traditional building materials; improves indoor air quality by naturally absorbing pollutants; and is a fast-growing, low pesticide crop. Working with hempcrete as an insulation alternative on this project gave us the opportunity to learn more about this material and its future uses.  

To further minimize the project’s carbon footprint, the team reused materials from other sources as much as possible including solar panels, windows, and wood. The steel helical piles that formed the foundation have lower embodied carbon than the traditional concrete strip, involve minimal excavation and disturbance to the environment, and can be recycled at the end of the building’s life cycle. Other sustainable elements include natural filtration, daylighting, rainwater capture, and seismic design. 

The project came in third place overall in the Solar Decathlon Build Challenge and first place in several categories including Embodied Environmental Impact. It also won CLF Vancouver’s BC Embodied Carbon Award for Small Scale Projects Located Within Metro Vancouver. Now that the competition is over, the single-family home will be repurposed as an institutional building for the Applied Science teams at UBC to further research sustainable design and construction methods and materials.  

Since our first LEED project in 2002, Ledcor has continued to focus on innovation and sustainability to ensure our teams are on the leading edge of sustainable construction across Canada. We are committed to helping our clients optimize the quality, longevity, and life-cycle costs of their buildings to benefit the future health of our communities and our planet. Ledcor was proud to support the student community on this innovative, award-winning project. 


Watch this video to learn more.