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A rendered model of the team's home for the 2023 Build Challenge.

The University of British Columbia

Team Name: Third Quadrant Design

Build Location: University of British Columbia campus in Vancouver, British Columbia

This 1,220 ft2 structure will be located on the university campus, integrating sustainable design and low-carbon materials for an educational space of the future.

Project Summary

Third Space Commons aligns building design and construction with global efforts to combat the climate emergency. Built on the design principles of carbon minimalism, system minimalism, flexibility & adaptability, resilience, and living lab, Third Space Commons builds upon the prevailing knowledge of building sustainability and places carbon, not energy, at the forefront. The building speculates on housing for the 2023 US Solar Decathlon Build Challenge but will ultimately serve as an institutional integrated design ‘third space’ for experiential and research-based learning on zero emissions, regenerative, and climate resilient design.

Design Philosophy:

Sustainability is a more local concept than it is often thought of; a sustainable building in Vancouver will have considerable differences to a sustainable building in Denver, for example. With consideration to Vancouver’s geography, climate, society, economy, and grid, our building was designed upon the following design principles.

  • Third Spaces: Third Space Commons embodies the concept of ‘Third Spaces’ which are distinct from both the home and the workspace (first and second spaces). These spaces facilitate more informal, creative, and collaborative interactions in a comfortable setting, often referred to as a ‘home away from home’. Our project sought to design a sustainability ‘third space’ on campus, to facilitate our goal of a space in which interdisciplinary groups of students could connect and collaborate on the future of zero emissions, regenerative, and climate-resilient design.
  • Carbon Minimalism: A project’s total carbon footprint is the best measure of its impact on the climate. With thoughtful design, the carbon balance of a building in British Columbia is heavily weighted toward embodied carbon due to the near zero operational emissions of BC’s electricity grid. Our low embodied carbon goal is achieved through material circularity, low-emission components, and on-site carbon sequestration.
  • Flexibility & Adaptability: A sustainable building must be adaptable to future use and programming and considers use cases for the full duration of a building’s life. From its reconfigurable room layouts to its evolving programming as both a residential live-work space to institutional student collaboration space, Third Space Commons can adapt to a wide array of occupant needs and desires.
  • Living Laboratory: Living labs are open innovation ecosystems. Third Space Commons has been designed for continuous interaction, monitoring, experimentation, and iteration, with the intent of advancing sustainable design among the next generation of engineers, architects, and construction professionals on campus and across industry.
  • System Minimalism (Passive Design): Architectural and engineering elements were carefully chosen to facilitate natural ventilation, passive heating & cooling, and daylighting to minimize energy usage without sacrificing occupant comfort or embodied carbon.
  • Resilience: To best serve its occupants, a building must be able to respond to changing conditions. As climate change increases the probability of disruptions to normal operations, this building was designed to be resilient in all of its systems.


    Market Analysis

    Our team strongly believes that the solution to the unique challenges faced in Vancouver does not lie in building energy-efficient single-family homes. Housing is a uniquely complex challenge in Vancouver without a clear solution in sight, and there is no housing solution that we can propose that would address this challenge.

    Third Space Commons is located on the University of British Columbia’s Vancouver campus, where it has been approved to remain until 2030 as an integrated design hub for experiential and research-based learning on zero emissions, regenerative, and climate resilient design, as pillars of actionable solutions to the climate emergency.


    Key Features:

    • Reclaimed/reused materials
    • Rainwater capture
    • Hempcrete walls
    • Seismic resilience.