- Architect In Charge: HCMA
- General Contractor: Ledcor
- City: Burnaby
- Country: Canada
Text description provided by the architects. The UniverCity Childcare is located at the heart of Simon Fraser University’s high-density, sustainable community of UniverCity. The facility hosts 50 children ranging from 3 to 5 years old. The building provides two “centres” with separate spaces and services for two groups of 25 children as well as a “community” space for the shared use and interaction of the two groups. In addition to the 9 staff of the SFU Childcare Society, it also hosts academic researchers from Simon Fraser University who use the facility as a living lab to observe and conduct firsthand study of early childhood education.
Theory + Design Principles
UniverCity Childcare is the first childcare centre in the world to integrate the Living Building Challenge™, the next generation of green building requirements that goes beyond LEED Platinum, with the renowned Reggio Emilia early childhood pedagogy. The Reggio Emilia’s unique educational programming model is predicated on a deep respect for children’s curiosity, their potential, and their right to communicate through the diverse languages they employ for self-expression. In addition to Reggio’s unique educational programming, the environment is considered the “Third Teacher”. Beauty and wonder are infused into the materials, surfaces, and light qualities of the preschool centres. The childcare facility itself becomes a laboratory for self-directed learning. It provides unique opportunities, both indoors and out, for the children to explore water, light, air, gravity, vegetation and seasonal changes.
The project team adopted a multifaceted educational approach from the earliest stages of the project. Integrated design workshops ensured that the input from the users and stakeholders would be incorporated in the design while they could be informed of the unique nature of the project.
Context + Site
As part of the requirements of the Living Building Challenge program, the project was built on a previously developed site with almost no impact on the existing natural ecosystems. In addition, the project committed to set aside an equal amount of land away from the project site in perpetuity as part of a habitat exchange. By collecting rainwater in a 10,000-gallon cistern for use within the building, the stormwater run-off will be significantly reduced. Any additional run-off will be infiltrated on site and, if necessary, diverted to the community’s sustainable stormwater treatment system. The landscape design incorporates native and adaptive plants that require no irrigation after the initial establishment period.
UniverCity is designed to be a compact, mixed-use and transit-oriented community founded on four sustainable cornerstones of environment, equity, economy and education. The Childcare does not provide any parking spaces and is just a minute walk away from the SFU University transit hub. It is also easily accessible on foot by the current and future residents of the community as it is centrally located within the UniverCity lands.
Budget + Time Constraints
The UniverCity Childcare Centre is achieving all these ambitious goals while costing less to build than conventional childcare centres elsewhere in the region.
The Living Building Challenge criteria influenced the sustainable design strategies for this project. The decision to follow the most advanced and stringent green building certification program resulted in a net-zero energy, net-zero water building with an exemplarily healthy indoor air quality and locally and responsibly sourced materials. The LBC was a catalyst for the project’s contribution to social, economic and environmental sustainability.
In a full-day workshop prior to occupancy, all consultants and the contractor informed the user group and the client of the sustainable features of the building and of proper use of various building systems. The children from the Childcare also invited the Principal Architect to come and speak to them so that they could have a better understanding of what a living building is. The interaction with the user group and building occupants will continue during the one-year monitoring period required by Living Building Challenge. The real-time building performance data will also be available through user-friendly, easily understandable visual interface fed through a building systems monitoring program.