In the heart of Simon Fraser University’s sustainable campus community is an unassuming early childhood education facility. However, despite its modesty, this is the world’s greenest preschool – it saves as much energy as it uses, collects and recycles more water than it consumes, and has been built and operated using locally-sourced, non-toxic materials.

Project Essentials

  • LocationBurnaby, BC
  • ClientSFU Community Trust
  • ArchitectHCMA Architecture + Design
  • Size5,700 ft² (529 m²)
  • BudgetC$4 million
  • Sustainable FeaturesPetal Certified, targeting Living Building Challenge certification

UniverCity Childcare acts as a living lab for early childhood researchers. Its 50 three- to five-year-old children learn the importance of preserving the planet, through self-directed interactions with their built and natural environments. Building the facility to the scale of a child was important for the design team, as was creating an outdoor landscape that would entice kids to play and explore. 

Fast + Epp contributed to the building’s L-shaped design, with exposed steel frames supporting a finely detailed solid laminated wood roof and exterior wall. Wood was used for its sustainability benefits and warm, aesthetic appeal. Passive design strategies like natural ventilation and ample daylighting proved crucial for meeting the project’s stringent environmental targets.

Remarkably, the centre cost 18% less to build than comparable childcare centres that don’t meet the same sustainability markers. It is the seventh building worldwide to register for Living Building Challenge.