Dedicated to sustainable,
high performance building

Amber Trails Community School, Winnipeg

Institutional [large] AWARD

Jury comments: This project encourages social interaction and community engagement through the physical organization of its multiple programs. Operating before and after regular school hours increases the efficiency of building use, while energy and water consumption reductions of close to 70% are remarkable. Programs such as the community farm raise awareness around broader aspects of sustainability. A community school in the truest sense.

Located in a new and fast-growing neighbourhood of Winnipeg, the Amber Trails Community School recently became the first school in Manitoba, and only the second in Canada, to achieve LEED Platinum certification. Completed in 2015, the new 7,900m2 building is situated in the heart of the community, and challenges existing paradigms about school design. The school, which also acts as a community centre and library for the neighbourhood, offers a comfortable, inclusive environment; with a welcoming entrance that encourages families, many of them new to Canada, to connect with their new community.

A combined daycare and early learning centre, daylight-filled learning spaces, with flexibility for different learning opportunities, a fusion of indoor and outdoor environments, common learning centres and outdoor classrooms, reinforce this connection. The school provides public access and incorporates large glazed walls with entrances facing onto the street. These entrances open into the large learning commons, as well as the gymnasium and kitchen.

In addition to creating a more intimately scaled environment by breaking the 600 capacity school into four smaller ‘academies’ and inverting the traditional typologies to make the gymnasium and its activities visible from the street, the design also embodies a strategic approach to sustainability. Every detail – from the placement and orientation of the building on the site, to the arrangement of the internal program – was carefully considered to maximize energy efficiency and access to daylight.

The selection of mechanical systems was based on overall efficiency and comfort and includes: a ground source heat pump for domestic water, hydronic radiant floors and active chilled beams for fresh air and cooling; energy recovery ventilators; and variable speed drive pumps. All systems are fully electric, and have no associated GHG emissions. Other energy savings strategies include CO2, occupancy and daylight sensors; and high-performance triple glazing with fibreglass frames.

Materials selection criteria emphasized durable, self-finished, low-VOC products, with many being regionally sourced and/or having a high recycled content. More than 50% of wood used for fixtures and finishes was FSC certified. Following the standards set out by the funding authority, the school is designed for a 60-year service life, although structural components are predicted to last considerably longer.

As a regional priority for the prairies, water conservation was of paramount concern, and the school includes a rainwater collection system to enable the re-use of grey water. Conservation of water has been used as a learning opportunity in a program that also emphasizes social sustainability. Under the guidance of a teacher, students have started a farming collective, and parents are buying shares of the kids’ produce. The practice teaches kids about sustainability and site ecology: creating local food systems, decreasing food miles and fostering a consciousness about where food comes from.

With the vibrant glow of activities spilling out through the windows on many dark, Winnipeg winter nights, the Amber Trails Community School exemplifies a new generation of educational facilities that are open and accessible to all.

Project Credits
Owner Public Schools Finance Board & Seven Oaks School Division
Architect Prairie Architects Inc.
Structural Engineer Wolfrom Engineering
Mechanical/electrical Engineer MMM Group Ltd.
Commissioning Agent Integrated Designs
Building Envelope Commissioning QCA Building Envelope Ltd.
Civil Engineer WSP
Landscape Architect HTFC Planning & Design
General Contractor Bockstael Construction
Photos Joel Ross,  CLICK.STUDIO

Project Performance
Energy intensity 91KWh/m²/year
Energy intensity reduction relative to reference building under MNECB [1997] 71%
Potable water consumption from municipal sources 1,143 L/occupant/year
Potable water consumption reduction relative to reference building 67%
Regional materials [as defined by LEED] by value 36%
Reclaimed and recycled materials by value 20%
Construction materials diverted from landfill 86%

Suppliers: Uponor in-floor radiant system, Elkay drinking fixtures, Duxton fibreglass-frame windows and Cooper-Eaton lighting.