Building Blocks on Balmoral at Great West Life – Winnipeg, MB

Institutional [Small] Award | Prairie Architects Inc.

Jury comments: This project comprehensively and creatively addresses multiple aspects of sustainability simultaneously. The adaptive re-use of a heritage house as the centrepiece of a new and much needed daycare facility not only achieves LEED Platinum environmental performance, but also acts as a powerful catalyst in the revitalization of the fabric of Winnipeg’s West Broadway neighbourhood through the addition of this community amenity.

Building Blocks on Balmoral at Great-West Life comprises  the adaptive re-use of the 110-year old Grade II listed Milner House and two new structures, which together provide 100 licensed childcare spots to Great-West Life employees and the West Broadway community.

In addition to upgrading and extending the useful life of a heritage structure, the new facility has achieved LEED Platinum certification with the integration of sustainable features that include: a geothermal ground source heat-pump with in-floor radiant heating and chilled beams for cooling; displacement ventilation that requires lower fan power than ducted systems; significant use of salvaged, refurbished and re-used materials; substantial water use reduction (a particular priority in the Prairies); abundant daylight and views and use of low-emitting materials.

In order to create a sense of “home” for children, the facility was deliberately divided into two smaller additions on either side of the existing Milner House: one for toddlers and infants and one for preschool aged children. Each addition has direct connection to accessible exterior play yards, designed with naturalized landscapes and an age-appropriate focus.

The need to replace the deteriorating foundation of the Milner House provided an opportunity to make the ground floor of the facility fully accessible.

In order to keep the entire main floor on one level without introducing ramps and stairs, the original structure was lowered approximately 610mm onto a new foundation, and the north end of the site was built up 1,220mm to provide an accessible outdoor play area  for the children.

This also enabled the implementation of two site planning moves that facilitate on-site stormwater management: the elimination of an impervious lane connecting Balmoral Street to the Great- West Life parking lot; and the creation of a retention area for stormwater run-off at the north end of the site.

With a particular concern for indoor environmental quality, the project has been designed with 100% fresh air displacement ventilation. The system, which introduces low velocity fresh air at low level, was selected not only because of the significant energy savings it offered, but also because it was the most effective way to deliver fresh air close to the floor in spaces occupied by small children and crawling infants.


  • Owner/Developer:  Great West Life Assurance Company
  • Architect:  Prairie Architects Inc.
  • General Contractor:  Manshield Construction
  • Landscape Architect:  Nadi Design & Development Inc.
  • Civil Engineer:  WSP
  • Electrical/ Mechanical Engineer:  KGS Group 
  • Structural Engineer:  Wolfrom Engineering Ltd.
  • Commissioning Agent:  Pinchin
  • Energy Modelling:  Stantec
  • Photos: Lindsay Reid


  • Energy intensity (building and process energy) =  145.5KWhr/m²/year
  • Energy intensity reduction relative to reference building under MNECB 1997 = 56%
  • Water consumption from municipal sources = 2,993 litres/occupant/year
  • Reduction in water consumption relative to reference building under LEED = 50%
  • Recycled material content by value = 14%
  • Regional materials (800km radius) by value = 36%
  • Construction waste diverted from landfill = 89.5%
  • The chilled beam around the perimeter. Daikin contributed fan coils and its Enfinity water-source heat pumps to the HVAC system. Each of the four new buildings use an Uponor manifold and in-floor radiant system to provide  even heating across the floors. 
  • The project uses an ERV system by Winnipeg-based Tempeff North America. The Dual-Core technology recovers both heat and humidity in winter allowing for continuous fresh air supply and a frost-free operation in extremely cold conditions. This ERV simplifies system design and does not require preheat or any form of defrost strategy.
  • East-facing childcare space where large windows admit natural light. DUXTON Windows & Doors supplied the fiberglass fenestration, in FiberWall™ Series 328 and 458, high performance triple glazing. The windows came complete with a 350 Panning exterior extension, providing a seamless, prefinished flashing detail for easy installation.


Resilience planning for communities to thrive in an unpredictable and changing world

Across Canada, we are witnessing tremendous change, not only in our climate, but also in the urbanization of our cities. As our cities grow, we are experiencing greater pressures on our housing stock and community-wide infrastructure. In an often unpredictable and changing world, resilient design and planning is needed for our cities and communities to endure and thrive in both the short and long-term.

By: Kathy Wardle and Viren Kallianpur

While we must be aware of potential short and long-term shocks and threats facing our communities, as design professionals we have both a responsibility and an opportunity to implement solutions that offer hope to Canadians. This article offers a perspective on resilient design: the guiding principles, best practices, and tools that are available to practitioners today.

There is both commonality and differences in the various Canadian cities in terms of their stressors and threats. With four out of five people in Canada living in cities, the resulting higher density and population in urban areas mean that cities are both agents for climate impacts and solutions.

Growing population through migration and immigration, the rising demand for transportation, and the growing need for infrastructure to provide safety, comfort, and security all combine to create different pressures on our cities.

The global nature of the world we live in also means that stressors and threats faced by other nations have either a direct or an indirect impact on our cities. While global in nature, these impacts need to be resolved at the local level through political will, technical expertise, and individual commitment and responsibility. The effort to find solutions to these issues or problems lie in a more collaborative and collective approach through leadership, community engagement, and collective action.

While climate change is one of the most important drivers for discussions regarding resilience, the conversations should not be limited to climate change; resilience needs to be looked through social, economic, and environmental lenses to identify risks—natural and manmade, acute and chronic—and respond through design and operations planning. Resilience needs to be addressed at multiple levels from a single building, to a district, city and regional level. Policies, strategies, and initiatives at each scale influence the resilience and performance at other scales.

Kathy Wardle, LEED BD+C RELi AP, is Associate Principal, Director of Sustainability, and Viren Kallianpur, AICP, LEED AP BD+C, RELi AP, is Associate, Urban Design Practice, both of Perkins+Will in Vancouver.