Third Space Commons is a near-zero carbon single-family residential building that was designed and constructed through a collaboration between the University of British Columbia’s (UBC) student-led Third Quadrant Design, Ledcor, and several of our industry partners.
A key material of the build was hempcrete, which has been emerging worldwide as a concrete alternative due to its carbon negative nature. 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.
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. Another innovative component of the project was its raised helical pile foundation. Steel piles 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 2023 U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon Build Challenge and first place in several categories including Embodied Environmental Impact. The project also won CLF Vancouver’s Embodied Carbon Award for Small Scale Projects Located Within Metro Vancouver. It will now serve as an institutional building for the Applied Science teams at UBC to further research sustainable design and construction methods and materials.