Univercity Childcare Centre




530 square metres




HCMA Architecture + Design

Structural Engineer

Fast + Epp

Project Owner

Simon Fraser University Community Trust

Construction Manager

Ledcor Group

Project Materials


Nail-laminated timber (NLT)



Structural Systems

Project Overview

Wood is a popular choice among architects for educational facilities for a number of reasons, including its ability to provide a warm and friendly learning environment. So, when Simon Fraser University (SFU) built a childcare centre in their UniverCity community, the decision to use wood was a logical one.

HCMA took their sustainable building approach a step beyond the typical by designing the UniverCity Childcare Centre to meet Living Building Challenge (LBC) criteria. UniverCity was the first childcare centre in the world to meet LBC’s rigorous standards. LBC is a green building certification program with a demanding set of building criteria, in which wood fits perfectly. Interestingly, even with these and other challenging requirements, the Centre was built at a cost of 18 percent less than that of comparable childcare facilities in the region.

Wood Use

Materials selection is critically important to LBC criteria. HCMA spent a significant amount of time and research to find compliant products. They chose to use an exposed steel frame which supports a solid wood roof and exterior wall structures constructed of nail laminated timber (NLT) panels. NLT panels are formed by nailing dimension lumber, stacked on edge, into a solid panel.

The NLT was fabricated onsite and used for both structure and interior finishes, providing acoustic benefits. The stairs and window sills were trimmed with salvaged wood, and cedar was used for the siding and landscape fencing which give the exterior a natural, familiar aesthetic. The L-shaped building has two educational ‘wings’ connected by a shared community space. Salvaged lumber was refinished and used to construct the stage in the Community Room.

“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”.

Dale Mikkelsen, Director of Development
SFU Community Trust