Heritage Woods Secondary School

Trail breaker a LEED Silver first

The school is remarkable for its quality of light, with large areas of south facing glazing bringing high levels of daylight into classroom areas
by Witmar Abele

Empowered by the client’s mandate to build a “green” school, the design team pushed the envelope well beyond energy-efficient design, and set out to create a healthy, user-friendly learning environment that effectively facilitates the learning process in the true spirit of sustainability - all within the standard budget for school construction.
Heritage Woods Secondary School also represents a significant departure from the restrictive “design ratios” [eg. limiting the amount of window area] imposed by the funding authorities.
Located in the Vancouver suburb of Port Moody and accommodating 1200 students, Heritage Woods Secondary is the first LEED certified public school in British Columbia, and the first to achieve a LEED Silver level of certification in Canada. Using the integrated design process, the design team has achieved a high standard of sustainable design by focusing on strategies that would yield the highest return in terms of resource conservation, environmental impact, and occupant health and comfort.
The design team took the position that schools perform as microcosms of the larger community. As such, corridors represent the public spaces such as streets, and program areas represent the private domain. The three-and-one-half story atrium in the school acts as the agora, serving as the central gathering space for the student community, and the social heart of the school. It serves as circulation hub, study hall, eating space, lobby, and other multi-purpose functions.
The atrium is the main organizing element of the plan. It also plays an important role in the environmental control system, providing natural ventilation through stack effect, as well as heat recovery to conserve energy. Twelve-foot high clerestory glazing that runs the full 221ft length of the atrium floods this space with daylight, and thus allows natural light to enter deep into the interior of the school.
Light-study models were built and tested at the lighting lab in Seattle to determine levels of daylight and glare-control devices, that sufficient points to achieve LEED silver. Space functions that require little or no daylight [such as computer labs and the theatre] are located where daylight is less available. The east and west elevations have limited glazing to minimize solar gain and glare problems. A high level of transparency throughout the school and beautiful light quality are among the biggest accomplishments in this design.
The design of Heritage Woods Secondary School integrates architecture, structure and building systems to the greatest possible degree. A compact footprint resulted in efficiencies and economies in all systems within the building, and maximized the open space available for student and public recreation. And 17km of ground-source piping placed under the playfield and running track has contributed in large part to a 55% reduction in overall energy consumption per year?
The 7.5m structural grid - derived from the width of a classroom module - has been rigorously applied to organize structure, fenestration, finishes, and building systems. An economy of means, honest expression of materials as well as a logical and straightforward structure reflects modernist design ideals.
Materials perform at multiple levels. For example, the exposed concrete atrium portal frames provide structural support to the roof and adjacent floors, while clearly expressing the organizational logic of the design, and lending spatial definition to the atrium. In the atrium, composite wood slats applied over rock wool insulation provide an attractive wall treatment, and simultaneously perform an important acoustic function.
Throughout the school, materials such as carpet, paint and exposed concrete, have been chosen for low toxicity, durability and local availability. Carefully placed return air grilles and CO2 monitoring in assembly areas ensure a high quality of indoor air on an ongoing basis.
At the suggestion of the architects, a computerized educational display was installed in the atrium to explain the building’s green design features. Thus the building itself performs as a teaching tool for educating students on the environmental benefits of green building design.

Witmar Abele, IA, Dipl.Arch, MRAIC, LEED AP was lead designer on for this LEED silver project for Killick Metz Bowen Rose Architects Inc., Vancouver.



  • CLIENT: B.C. School District #43
  • ARCHITECTURAL FIRM: Killick Metz Bowen Rose Architects Inc., Vancouver
  • STRUCTURAL ENGINEER: Bush Bohlman & Partners Inc., Vancouver
  • MECHANICAL ENGINEER: J.M. Bean & Co. Ltd., Vancouver
  • ELECTRICAL ENGINEER: R.A. Duff & Associates Ltd., Burnaby
  • CIVIL ENGINEER: R.F. Binnie, Surrey, BC
  • ENERGY CONSULTANTS: Enersys and BC Hydro
  • LANDSCAPE ARCHITECT: Perry & Associates, Vancouver
  • COST CONSULTANT: James Bush & Associates, Vancouver
  • DAYLIGHT STUDIES: Betterbrick’s Lighting Lab, Seattle Construction DGS Construction Ltd.
  • ACOUSTIC CONSULTANT: BKL Acoustics, North Vancouver
  • GEOTECHNICAL: Davies Geotechnical, Surrey, BC
  • PHOTOS: Robert Stefanowicz, BC


  • Cast-in-place concrete, reinforced pre-cast concrete tilt-up frame, concrete slab-on-grade; composite floor of concrete-filled deep-cell steel floor decking; structural steel and open web steel joists, metal Q-deck, zinc-aluminum coated metal roof and wall cladding; exterior sunscreens-galvanized metal fabrications
  • Carpets by Beaulieu, sealants, adhesives, paint have low VOC, low-maintenance, self-finishing materials, operable windows for ventilation, occupancy and photocell sensors control lighting and ventilation, energy-efficient lighting, high-efficiency boilers, high-reflectance roof

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