The AMS Student Nest Sustainability Features

The AMS Student Nest Sustainability Features

Ever since we (UBC students) decided to build a new student union building, sustainability has been a core part of the Nest’s identity. Our new building is aiming to get LEED+ Platinum certification, which is the highest sustainable building status in North America. If we succeed, our building will be the most sustainable student union building in Canada. All thanks to our strong student sustainability culture.

Some quick facts about the building’s inherent sustainability features:

  1. There’s no mechanical air conditioning! Instead, fresh air is pumped through the floors, and hot air you have breathed out rises to the top and is displaced out of the building. This is called passive air conditioning.
  2. Greywater is used to flush our toilets! Nothing new here, just makes sense to use the water we washed our hands with to take away our waste.
  3. We use rainwater as well! This waters some non-edible landscaping and also gets put into our cooling system.
  4. Our building envelope is pretty thick, which keeps it warm when it should be, and cold when it should be. Just like a big thermos.
  5. All tenants of the Nest are not allowed to use Styrofoam. It’s banned!

If you’d like to know more about how the building itself works to have the smallest footprint possible, feel free to peruse our architect, DIALOG.

Beyond achieving LEED+ Platinum, there are many sustainability features in the Nest that are a result of student-led initiatives and projects:




Runoff is a student-led project that is located on the main floor of the Nest that symbolizes water as a shared resource; one that is not simply consumed, but that filters from one environment to another, taking with it any pollutants encountered on the way. The structure serves to draw awareness to the problem of industrial and agricultural runoff, the danger this runoff poses to the environment, and our society’s interaction with water. Runoff is a structure of wood, steel, and aluminum consisting of a series of suspended garden platforms over a rock filled basin. The gears on top invoke a sense of industrialization and control while the garden platforms play the role of the green and natural ecosystems. From the top of the structure, water flow cascades through each of the garden platforms to the basin at the bottom. The pool at the bottom reflects the bodies of water into which all water flows; and the water used in Runoff recirculates similar to the natural processes that govern our environment. The goal of the display is to give a sense of the scale that water plays in our lives and invoke discussions of our interactions with it.


Roots on the Roof

Roots on the Roof (UBC Rooftop Garden Club) is a student-run club that manages the rooftop garden space and the community garden plots on the roof of the AMS Student Nest, the Student Union Building at the University of British Columbia. They run a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, host events and workshops, operate a market stand during the growing season, and have gardens available for community members to use. Founded in 2014, they are focused on creating community-minded experiences and opportunities for personal empowerment that also incorporate concepts of food justice and food security. They facilitate student and community capacity around food by producing food as sustainably as possible, and by hosting events and workshops that encourage interactions around food, culture, health, and sustainability. By engaging with UBC’s diverse community, they hope to provide an avenue for knowledge sharing that enables dynamic ways to approach food system issues.

Interested in joining the club or want to learn more? Check out their site:


Citypod Invessel Composter

The Citypod is a 6 meter long biodigester that was installed and operational in the loading bay of the AMS Student Nest in November 2014, as part of the Nest initiative to form a closed-loop system of waste inside the building. Pre-consumer organic waste from the AMS kitchens is fed to the Citypod and turned into compost in just a few weeks. The Citypod was purchased from a Quebec-based company, called Vertal, and was the first machine to be built by them at the time of purchase. The Citypod was a project that arose out of the AMS Composting Program that was a long succession of voluntary student projects that began with a handful of red-wiggler worms in a bin in the AMS kitchens.


Nest Building Dashboard

As part of a SEEDs project, a group of electrical and computer engineering students have designed a system called the Dashboard that displays metrics from the Nest, such as amount of waste produced, and amount of energy and water used. It is located on an interactive T.V. screen in the Student Life and Sustainability Center (SLSC) on the lower level of the Nest. The aim of the project was to make the Nest metrics more available to students, so that they are more informed about what is required to keep the Nest maintained; and hopefully encourage students to actively monitor and reduce their own consumption habits.

Wanting to check out the Dashboard, but can’t make it to the Nest? No problem, you can also explore the Dashboard from your computer at this link:


Digital Waste Management

As a means of measuring solid waste production at the SUB, a digital waste management system was developed by a group of electrical and computer engineering students, consisting of a floor scale, button panel and computer software backend. The system allows the weight, specific waste stream, the date and time of the disposal of the waste to be recorded and saved on a server. The system aims to be cheaper and faster than the alternative of conducting periodic waste audits, all the while being safe and easy to use. The system now allows the AMS to track and monitor the amount of waste that the Nest is producing, which creates the building blocks for the AMS to then reduce the amount of waste produced.



Picture coming soon!

A team of mechanical engineering students collaborated with SEEDS to design and install a charging station called the SEEDS solePower Station, an area where students can produce their own electricity for charging their electronics. The station is made up of a two bicycle seats and pedals, and a tabletop with plugs, to allow students to charge any type of electronic device by pedaling. The goal of the station was to increase student engagement and increase education. In order to increase student engagement, the charging station is designed to become easier to pedal when two students are pedaling, as opposed to one. Secondly, the station exposes students to the process of energy generation and transportation.


Revolving Gardens

Picture coming soon!

Revolving Gardens is a student-led university collaboration with the SEEDS Sustainability Program and AMS Sustainability that is located outside the Great Hall on the Second Floor of the Nest. It was entirely designed, built, and installed by UBC mechanical engineering students in their final year. Much like the Earth, the Revolving Gardens mirror our dependency on both rotation and sunlight to sustain life.  Solar energy provides the power required to rotate the pods, as well as providing a direct energy source for the plants themselves. By rotating when exposed to light, each plant receives an equal amount of direct sunlight. The entire system is drip irrigated and requires minimal maintenance thanks to the modular design of the plant compartments.

If you want to know more about any of the above projects, feel free to contact the Associate Vice President Sustainability at