A light wooden interior with lots of windows and children playing.

UniverCity Childcare Centre


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.

The centre also acts as a ‘living lab’ for university researchers, and is a model for sustainable practices as only the seventh building worldwide to register for the Living Building Challenge, the built environment’s most rigorous performance standard.

Children playing on tricycles within the organic shape of the yard around the facility.
Kids eating soup at a half circle table.
A kid running around an organic tiki structure made from sticks.

"It was our intent to try to deliver the most sustainable building in Canada on a fixed budget and allow the youngest segment of our population to enjoy that building and come to expect that out of any building they occupy in the future.

We thought if we are going to put anybody in the greenest building in Canada we should start with the kids. That way what is weird to us just becomes normal to them. They will move on and wonder why they aren’t flushing the toilet with rainwater."

Dale Mikkelsen, Director of Development, SFU Community Trust

Outside of UniverCity Childcare Centre, which has a box-like overhang with wood and a pop of neon green underneath.

The SFU Community Trust sought to create an innovative childcare facility for UniverCity – a livable, inclusive and forward-thinking urban community. The Childcare Centre needed to exemplify the goals of this developing community and demonstrate their commitment to the four cornerstones of sustainability – equity, environment, economy, and education.

In addition to meeting the ambitious goals of the Living Building Challenge, the Trust asked us to create a space that would support Reggio Emilia’s unique education programming model, with its emphasis on self-directed learning.

Interior with a family walking past a wooden staircase and neon green wall
Exterior wall of building with an 'L'shaped window and neon green accent.
Design Response

On opening in 2012, the UniverCity Childcare Centre was the first childcare centre in the world to integrate Living Building Challenge (LBC). Its influence was significant, and led to sustainable design strategies that resulted in exemplary healthy indoor air quality, locally and responsibly sourced materials, and a net-zero energy, net-zero water building. Despite this, the facility cost 18 percent less to build than other, conventional childcare centres being built elsewhere in the region.

Today, the centre remains a laboratory for self-directed learning within a space flexible enough to respond to the changing nature of education.

Children in their classroom with high ceilings, a large window and wooden walls.

"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

Kids playing outside in front of the building
A red tricycle sitting in front of a yellow wall that leads to a classroom with wooden tables and chairs


CaGBC National Leadership Awards - Green Building Champion Award 2013

SAB Canadian Green Building Award 2012

Urban Development Institute Award - Best Sustainable 2012

Petal Certified, targetting Living Building Challenge certification

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