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Prairie Architects’ Amber Trails named Greenest School in Canada


September 29, 2017
by Canadian Architect

Photo: Lindsay Reid

Photo: Lindsay Reid

The Canada Green Building Council (CaGBC) and the Canada Coalition for Green Schools have announced that the Amber Trails Community School in Winnipeg, Manitoba is the winner of the annual CaGBC Greenest School in Canada competition.

Located in the heart of a new neighbourhood in North Winnipeg, Amber Trails is a 78,000 sq.ft., newly constructed building that acts not just as a school, but as an open and accessible hub within the community. Designed by Prairie Architects, the school received LEED Platinum certification in 2016, and won the CaGBC’s Excellence in Green Building for New Construction award in May 2017.

The CaGBC Greenest School jury, comprised of green building industry experts from across the country, chose Amber Trails for both its excellent environmental curriculum and its dedication to maintaining a truly green building, including an ENERGY STAR score of 92 and overall energy savings of 68 per cent. They appreciated the school’s eco-positive vision that highlights community engagement, as well as the Outdoor Learning Environment, which integrates this space with the surrounding public trails and encourages teachers to take their instruction outside. Additionally, they like that the school has adopted a “balanced” school day which allows students more time to play outside.

As the 2017 Greenest School in Canada winner, Amber Trails will receive a $2,000 cash award to put toward a new or ongoing sustainability project.

Highlights of the Amber Trails Community School include:

  • A student-run organic vegetable farm was developed last summer, enabling students in the farming club to work together with a farm coordinator to cultivate a mixture of over 20 varieties of vegetables which are sold to staff and community members.
  • The school is working on a timeline-based teaching guideline that connects the climatic seasons with the school’s vegetable farm, in order to support land-based education and promote a deeper sense of place, and an awareness of human impacts and how they acknowledge and connect with natural cycles.

    Photo: Joel Ross

    Photo: Joel Ross

  • The project owner, Seven Oaks School Division and PSFB, made the decision to eliminate natural gas from the project to reduce GHG emissions and future mechanical maintenance costs. With a combination of geothermal heating and cooling, radiant floor heating, low-flow fixtures and other initiatives, the school achieved over 68 per cent energy savings and a lower carbon footprint.
  • Each classroom has three large windows and a partially glazed wall separating the classroom from the hallway, allowing for fresh air, outdoor views and natural light to come into the classroom. They say this has many positive impacts on the mental and physical well-being of both students and teachers.
  • Amber Trails has achieved over 50 per cent reduction in water use. The school division reported that they are saving approximately $7,224 per year on water and it was found that the average water consumption for Amber Trails is 1.21 m3 per student, in comparison to 3.2m3 per student at a similar school.

The runners up of the 2017 Greenest School in Canada competition were:

Launched in 2014, this the Greenest School in Canada competition seeks to showcase kindergarten to Grade 12 schools across the country that truly exemplify how sustainability can be woven into the infrastructure, culture and curriculum of a school. The competition is part of a series of initiatives from the CaGBC and the Canada Coalition for Green Schools.