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UniverCity Childcare Centre

  • Location

    Burnaby, BC

Nestled in the dense heart of Simon Fraser’s sustainable campus community, UniverCity Childcare Centre provides early childhood education for 50 curious preschoolers, acts as a ‘living lab’ for university researchers, and is a model for sustainable practices as the seventh building to register for Living Building Challenge worldwide.

Community Impact

Simple, beautiful, elegant. The UniverCity Childcare Centre is a remarkable example of intelligent, deeply integrated design and high performance – showing the world that our most precious citizens (our children) deserve an environment that is healthy, beautiful and supportive of their needs. This is a project to learn from – great design and true leadership from the developer to every consultant. The UniverCity Childcare Centre Living Building is a story of leadership in design and education!

Jason F. McLennan, CEO, International Living Future Institute

Design Challenge

This is the first childcare centre in the world to integrate Living Building Challenge (LBC), the built environment’s most rigorous performance standard. The LBC criteria influenced our sustainable design strategies, including an exemplary healthy indoor air quality, locally and responsibly sourced materials, and a net-zero energy, net-zero water building.


The SFU Community Trust sought to create an innovative childcare facility for UniverCity – a livable, inclusive and forward-thinking urban community. In addition to meeting LBC, we were asked to create a space to support Reggio Emilia’s unique education programming model. The Childcare Centre exemplifies the goals of this developing community and demonstrates their commitment to the four cornerstones of sustainability – equity, environment, economy, and education.


Design Response

The childcare is a laboratory for self-directed learning within a space flexible enough to respond to the changing nature of education. The Reggio Emilia pedagogy emphasizes three teachers: the educator, the environment, and the children’s broader community. The environment is designed for the experience and scale of the child, and encourages interaction with their environment. Controls and infrastructure for on-site building systems are revealed to encourage questions about operation.

Beyond meeting the ambitious goals of the Living Building Challenge and incorporating elements in harmony with the Reggio Emilia methodology, the Childcare cost 18 percent less to build than conventional childcare centres being built elsewhere in the region.

  • Completion


  • Size

    530 m2

  • Innovation

    Petal Certified, targetting Living Building Challenge certification

  • Award

    CaGBC National Leadership Awards - Green Building Champion Award 2013

  • Award

    SAB Canadian Green Building Award 2012

  • Award

    Urban Development Institute Award - Best Sustainable 2012

Design Process

The UniverCity Childcare Centre is a seminal building – one that marks a critical transition to buildings that give back as much to the environment as they use. It will shape the minds of many children to think differently and expect more from their built environments.

Heather Tremain, Principal, Urban Fabric Group and Loeb Fellow, Harvard University