Tiny chairs are seated around small, low tables and sit ready to use at the pint-sized kitchen snack bar. Daylight streams in through plentiful windows, allowing lots of natural light into the two-storey structure.
Bathroom counters are about knee-height for an adult, geared toward children three to five. Even the toilets are child-size.
Youngsters play and colour, put puzzles together and run around squealing with delight in the space designed especially for them – UniverCity Childcare Centre, the greenest such facility in Canada and the first to integrate the most advanced environmental design with a renowned childcare program entitled Reggio Emilia.
It’s the grand opening of the new daycare on Burnaby Mountain, where Simon Fraser University Community Trust is celebrating the new facility, which has room for 50 three- to five-year-olds.
Encompassed within UniverCity, the award-winning and sustainable residential community near SFU, the new childcare centre is part of the growing neighbourhood, which will eventually house at least 10,000 people.
“Both the university and the city can take great pride that we imagined this,” said Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan.
“Being able to be green and affordable is absolutely key.”
SFU Community Trust worked with a team of architects to create a facility with a net-zero footprint, at a price ($3.2 million) that is actually below other childcare facilities being built in the region – facilities without the same green features, noted Gordon Harris, SFU Community Trust president and CEO.
“This project resets the bar for sustainable design,” he said to the gathered crowd.
The new centre is expected to be the first building in Canada to meet Living Building Challenge, which means it will have to generate as much energy as it uses, collect or recycle more water than it consumes, and be built and operated using non-toxic materials, sourced as locally as possible.
SFU Childcare Society executive director Patricia Frouws, whose grandchildren were on hand to try out the new facility, praised both the facility and the Reggio Emilia program it offers, which is based on the principles of respect, responsibility and community through exploration and discovery in a supportive and enriching environment based on the interests of the children.
“The Reggio Emilia approach views children as capable and competent, learning through a process of inquiry that allows them to follow their curiosity as they encounter the world around them,” she said.
“This facility serves as an exemplary space for this respectful, self-directed learning, providing countless opportunities for children to explore indoors and out.”
International Living Future Institute CEO Jason McLennan told those gathered that UniverCity Childcare Centre is “probably the greenest facility on the planet.”
“The message this building sends to our children is that they matter, that our greatest priority is with them,” he said.
After the speeches, the adults chatted over coffee, tea and snacks while some of the children painted on a canvas that will be the centre’s first art piece.
As they played, explored, coloured, painted and puzzled, one child confided to another in a serious tone, “I like the toilets.”