Small classes, undergraduate research opportunities, first-year design courses, experiential learning and most of all a passion for sustainability make the School of Engineering at the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC) stand out.
UNBC is one of Canada’s best small universities. It is also known as “Canada’s Green University” for its teaching, research, energy initiatives and day-to-day emphasis on sustainability. An emphasis that merges naturally with the applied learning and research conducted by students at the undergraduate level in Environmental Engineering and Civil Engineering programs and at the graduate level in the Master of Engineering (MEng) in Integrated Wood Design program.
In 2009, UNBC launched its award-winning Energy Initiative, with a goal to demonstrate excellence in energy efficiency. The initiative led to the building of an on-campus wood-pellet plant and a bioenergy plant, which utilize energy-efficient methods to heat buildings and reduce the carbon footprint of its main campus located in Prince George, British Columbia. The legacy of these buildings extends to the classroom where engineering students examine, test, and even design renewable bio-energy solutions.
In addition, UNBC’s School of Engineering boasts state-of-the-art learning spaces at its Wood Innovation Research Laboratory (WIRL) and Wood Innovation Design Centre (WIDC), both of which are recognized the world over for innovative design, use of renewable resources and reduction of carbon emissions. Engineering students at UNBC are literally surrounded by case studies in sustainability that become the backbone of their degree.
Sustainability and Innovation
“In the School of Engineering, we use UNBC bioenergy data from the bioenergy plant for case studies—both the heating system and the LEED Platinum building,” says Maik Gehloff, Chair of School of Engineering at UNBC. “We have had several environmental engineering capstone design projects based on UNBC facilities that have looked at composting, rainwater harvesting, solid waste, cooling and several projects based around the bioenergy system. There have been graduate and undergraduate students working on projects using the bioenergy ash as a fertilizer. Our buildings are used for real-world case studies and for ‘what-if’ design projects that look at ways to improve sustainability measures at UNBC and in our communities.”
What differentiates UNBC’s undergraduate engineering programs from others is the small class sizes that allow a lot of team-based learning
WIRL is an especially unique feature of the School of Engineering that, alongside WIDC, offers students a one-of-a-kind, hands-on learning experience. Both undergraduate and graduate students have access to labs equipped with high-end virtual computing, CNC machinery, and strong-wall and strong-floor testing spaces. WIRL is an internationally recognized Passive House and engineering marvel, which uses up to 90 per cent less energy for heating and cooling when compared with standard buildings. It is there that students, faculty and researchers seek to discover novel materials and techniques for the next generation of tall wood buildings—buildings such as WIDC, which features many inventive wood-construction methods.
“The equipment available at WIDC and WIRL add a great experiential component to the program by allowing students to physically make and test concepts learned through lectures and seminars,” explains Gehloff.
“Students utilize the labs during course work to reinforce learning and give students the opportunity to do some testing as well as manufacturing,” adds Gehloff. “Especially in Master of Engineering in Integrated Wood Design. Students take courses on wood science and sustainable design, among many others.”
“The ‘integrated’ part of the program comes in the form of broadening the scope of the program and teaching future engineers going into wood engineering the importance and overall impact their decisions could have on the entire project.”
The UNBC Difference
“What differentiates UNBC’s undergraduate engineering programs from others is the small class sizes that allow a lot of team-based learning,” notes Gehloff. “UNBC also has close connections to the local engineering community with a lot of potential for community-based design projects throughout the curriculum and especially in the third- and fourth-year design courses.”
You are a person here, not a number. Faculty and students know and support one another creating opportunities for professional and personal growth that would be hard to come by at a larger university.
The small school environment and the supportive and engaging profs really drew me to UNBC, along with the sense of community, and UNBC’s reputation as Canada’s Green University. The support of professors and their genuine care for the success of their students in this program is also something that I will forever be thankful for.
Since elementary school, I have been passionate about the environment. I wanted to be involved in solving the earth’s climate change problems. I was ecstatic to find out UNBC has an Environmental Engineering program that focuses on the environment, with professors who are passionate about their projects.
My ambition towards action motivated me to become an engineering student. I find this program unique with various technical environmental classes and personable professors who are always available to assist students. Its small classes helped me get to know my fellow classmates and work together comfortably.
I chose the Environmental Engineering program because I wanted to work on sustainable engineering methods while learning more about how fundamental engineering concepts are applied in a practical fashion, ensuring a reliable and sustainable future for prospective generations. I like this program because it is very good at keeping students engaged and making sure that everything we learn relates to future applications.