Okanagan College, UBCO sign historic green energy partnership

The University of British Columbia Okanagan (UBCO) and Okanagan College have signed a letter of co-operation to explore the creation of a Green Construction and Training Centre (GCTRC) in the Okanagan Valley.

The centre will see researchers, staff, students and senior management at the two post-secondary institutions work together to to create innovative, low-cost and reliable construction methods to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and create environmentally-sustainable infrastructure.

Jim Hamilton, president of Okanagan College, and Dr. Deborah, deputy vice-chancellor of UBCO’s School of engineering, signed the official partnership agreement at the Jim Pattison Centre of Excellence on the Penticton campus of OK College Thursday morning.

They were joined by numerous other senior administrators at both institutions.

Eric Corneau, the regional dean for the South Okanagan-Similkameen for OK College, acted as the master of ceremonies for Thursday’s partnership agreement media conference.

Hamilton said sharing new ideas in green energy initiatives will lay the foundation for a greener future at both institutions.

“We’re here today to talk about the future,” said Hamilton. “Specifically, about how our two institutions can work together and take steps to ensure that it is a greener one.”

The letter of co-operation will formally outline how both institutions will move forward with new research and create hands-on practical training opportunities for students, he said.

The latest update on climate change by the United Nations indicates the planet is “fast approaching the tipping point in our efforts to avoid disastrous and irreversible global warming,” he said.

Over the past decade, Okanagan College has made great strides to reduce its carbon footprint, noting the Jim Pattison Centre of Excellence has been recognized as one of the most environmentally-friendly buildings of its kind anywhere in Canada, he said.

“This building is really in keeping with the spirit of the agreement we’re going to sign … we built this building with education and learning and change in mind,” he said.

UBCO has a number of buildings on its campuses that have used leading-edge technology as well, he said.

“You could say Okanagan College and UBC are leaders in this country in sustainability, so it makes good sense that we work together to empower our students and staff to continue to make advances in this area,” he said.

The partnership will focus on green construction education and research, as well as infrastructure and networks across the Okanagan region, he said.

“It also describes how we will work together with industry, all levels of government and other stakeholders to advance green construction,” he said.

There will be five goal areas of co-operation. They include:

– Developing shared projects with students from both institutions in green construction, research, training, technology and project opportunities.

– Developing a shared Okanagan College-UBCO School of Engineering Speaker Series in green construction and smart energy use.

– Appointing co-directors and establishing offices to administer green construction programs at both schools.

– Exploring prospects for a shared high-performance building design and engineering chair, hopefully sponsored by the National Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

– Exploring prospects to establish a Green Construction and Trade Centre in the Okanagan.

“As you can see, we have set some ambitious goals, but I think we owe it to ourselves, our students and to the future of this planet, to come together to pool our resources and our expertise and to set out the next steps that will help us make those goals a reality,” he said.

Buszard said Okanagan College and UBCO have a long history of working collaboratively and she is thrilled to be signing this partnership agreement.

“This is just the next step for our two great, growing institutions,” she said.

The two schools went “through a divorce” in 2005 to become separate institutions, but both have grown and prospered immensely since, she said.

“We’re both much bigger and stronger than we ever would have been left together,” she said.

There are now more than 20,000 students attending Okanagan College and more than 10,000 at UBCO, she said.

The two schools continue to share strong relationships in numerous programs like engineering and nursing and adding the green construction initiative is another step forward for both schools, she said.

“The grand challenge that we face globally is climate change,” she said. “It affects our very survival and not only ours, but all the other species that inhabit this beautiful land here and our beautiful planet.

“This initiative is a very real step to our professors and students taking global leadership in those areas. I couldn’t be more delighted to be here today to sign the agreement.”

Yvonne Moritz, Okanagan College’s dean of science, technology and Health, said this agreement will allow students at both schools to benefit from additional education, training and research experiences that will allow them to enter the green construction industry and set them up for success.

“They are the future innovators who will tackle many of these great sustainability challenges that we face,” she said.

Shahria Alam, a faculty member with UBCO’s School of Engineering, said the partnership’s main goal is to educate students in green construction initiatives, but also to “reduce greenhouse gas emissions for anything related to construction.”

For more information on Okanagan College, click here.

For more information on UBCO, click here.

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