The UniverCity Childcare Center is beyond a doubt the greenest building in Canada. Seeking certification from the most ambitious sustainability rating system in the world, it produces its own energy and water, was built with primarily locally-sourced, sustainably harvested materials and contains no toxic compounds. Plus, it’s a really fun place to play!
Located at the Simon Fraser University Campus on Burnaby Mountain just 25 minutes from downtown Vancouver, the UniverCity Childcare Center is on track for Living Building Challenge certification (LBC) – the world’s most stringent rating system for sustainable design. Unlike LEED certification, the LBC requires 12 months of monitoring to make sure it performs as it was designed before awarding certification. So far, only 18 buildings have been certified worldwide and this will be the first in Canada.
The 5,700-square-foot center designed by Hughes Condon Marler Architects provides space for 50 pre-schoolers from the surrounding community of 3,400 that call the UniverCity home. Heating and cooling is accomplished via passive solar design, along with geothermal tubes and radiant floor heating. Energy comes from the existing alternative energy grid of the campus, which is powered by scrap construction lumber. Water is supplied by roofwater catchment cisterns and heated by solar collectors. Both ‘black’ and ‘grey’ water are treated and recycled on-site.
The architects worked exhaustively to source materials that were not on LBC’s ‘red list’, the infamous list of chemicals — like CFCs, PVCs, halogenated flame retardants, phthalates, petrochemical fertilizers and pesticides, pentachlorophenol, for example — that are completely verboten. Many of these are found in common building materials, including typical ‘green’ building materials, making this the most daunting aspect of the entire process — especially since the materials are also supposed to be sourced from within the bio-region.
In addition to the usual green suspects of energy, water, waste and eco-friendly materials, the LBC takes the notion of sustainability to a whole new level. The LBC system also tracks things like health, equity, beauty and biophilia, the innate potential of humans to connect with nature. This is where the kids come into the picture. Their biophilia is completely engaged by the design, from the sandbox to the living branch structures in the courtyard where they run and play.