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In the early 1900s, bird watchers noticed that the area of Lesser Slave Lake and the Marten Mountains served as a natural barrier and stopping place for hundreds, if not thousands, of migratory bird species. The idea for a bird observatory naturally arose, and the most northerly bird conservation centre, the BCBC, was established along the migratory route. Today, the BCBC is the only educational and research facility in the world strategically located to study boreal birds on their breeding grounds. 


The Boreal Centre poses an interesting challenge: to design a building that is sustainable, comfortable, and largely off the grid. The building merges with the natural environment in a synchronous and responsible manner, where its existence gives to nature, rather than detracts from it. The BCBC supports the gathering of knowledge of not only the area’s bird populations, but of the Boreal forest itself. 


The Boreal Centre for Bird Conservation is a brilliant example of sustainable design that is both beautiful and pleasant for its occupants. Lacking a gas line or water or sewer access, the design concept is an exercise in resourcefulness and innovation. Ground-source heat pumps provide geothermal energy for zone heating and cooling. The high-performance building envelope and windows improve thermal comfort and optimize energy performance. The roof was designed to evoke a bird in flight, but its inverted shape also serves the purpose of the collection of rainwater, which is treated and puried on-site in the centre’s basement. For every 2.5 cm of rain, more than 14,000 litres of water are collected. Low-flow water appliances have also reduced potable water consumption by an astounding 48%. The BCBC is the closest to fully off-grid building designed by Reimagine.


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