Customer Story University of Calgary - MacKimmie Complex

Since its founding in 1966, UCalgary has become one of Canada’s top 5 research universities. Today, the university serves 34,000 students across five campuses, including the main campus, which houses the energy-efficient MacKimmie Complex. UCalgary is also home to the first building in Canada dedicated solely to improving post-secondary teaching and learning, the International Microbiome Center, and the most technologically advanced library in North America. The school offers over 250 academic programs and boasts an impressive 95% undergraduate retention rate.


Calgary, AB, Canada

Project Specs

Students: 500
Staff: 1300
Project Size: 35.3961 sq. meters
Certified Zero Carbon Building
Pursuing LEED Platinum Certification

Design Firm

Dialog Design

Dealer Partner

HBI - Heritage Business Interiors, Calgary

Campus Redevelopment in Calgary

Redeveloping the MacKimmie Complex was nothing short of ambitious. They removed the exterior of the 1970 tower and retrofitted it with an energy-efficient double-skinned façade, and expanded the building from 13 to 15 stories. They also replaced the adjacent MacKimmie Block building built in 1963 with a contemporary four-story hub for connection, classes, and administrative services. The four-story building is also the permanent home of the Hunter Student Commons, which includes the Innovation Sandbox and the Hunter Hub for Entrepreneurial Thinking.

The MacKimmie Complex is the first university campus project in Canada to achieve zero-carbon certification for its design.

A Space That Puts Student Needs First

When planning the new four-story Hunter Student Commons, campus leaders focused on student experience, starting with prospective students. The Commons serves as a welcoming hub that wows all who enter with a light-filled atrium featuring bridges and the unmistakable energy of vibrant student life.

Within the atrium, common areas on the main floor serve as a home away from home for students. It’s a comfortable place where they gather, bring their lunch, socialise, collaborate on group projects or study between classes.

At any given time, the Commons is also used for classes and innovation. It’s an inclusive space that welcomes all students regardless of background—one that helps foster a sense of belonging. For example, gender-neutral washroom signs read: "Washroom For Everyone," making the facility more inclusive and eliminating unnecessary waiting times associated with gender-specific restrooms.

Enrolment Services on the second floor includes the Registrar’s Office, faculty offices and the Prospective Students Hub. This Hub is a welcoming space where prospective students can get enrolment answers about everything from finance to graduation requirements. Lounge seating and workstations provide places for faculty to meet with students.

Innovative classrooms on the third floor make observing mock therapy sessions more effective for social work students as they participate in hands-on learning.

The atrium provides an awe-inspiring experience with natural light and openness on all four floors. From top to bottom, lounge seating and gathering spaces provide places where students naturally gather and socialise.

The Hunter Hub for Entrepreneurial Thinking

A key destination at the Commons is the Hunter Hub for Entrepreneurial Thinking, a space on the fourth floor that helps students develop an innovative mindset. Hunter Hub demystifies entrepreneurship and provides a place for students and Calgary-area entrepreneurs to incubate ideas and build businesses.

The Collision Space within the Hunter Hub is a multi-use venue where people gather to brainstorm, plan, and work together. Its adaptable design can be configured as a theatre, classroom, meeting space, or reception space for groups of up to 80. Students, staff, faculty, and visiting community members all use the Collision Space as a place to seed creativity.

The Innovation Sandbox is a dedicated space for UCalgary startup teams. Here, collaborators join forces at dedicated startup desks, grab a bite to eat in the open kitchen, and have access to private meeting rooms for confidential conversations. 

Communal spaces throughout the Hunter Hub support both large group socialising and individual quiet time. Meeting spaces host events while furnishings like pergolas and high-back seating allow for private conversations when folks need breakout time from large group activities. Individuals who want to focus, make confidential calls, or participate in video calls take advantage of freestanding Hush booths that provide private acoustic spaces for one.

Restorative Landscaping and a Connection to Nature

Adjacent to the MacKimmie Complex is the Swann Mall which provides students a connection to nature in an urban environment. In redesigning this space, UCalgary consulted elders from Traditional Knowledge Keepers to identify ways to honour and restore the land. As a result, the outdoor space once again is home to edible and medicinal plants native to the prairie. Choosing indigenous plants, especially prairie grasses with deep roots, makes the landscape more sustainable and drought-tolerant.

Even when students are indoors, they can connect with nature through the views through the expansive windows that envelop the buildings.

Sustainable Campus Design

UCalgary’s redevelopment of the MacKimmie Complex demonstrates that it’s possible to retrofit buildings to net-zero standards.

The double-skinned building design and solar panels that capture Calgary’s abundant sunshine are two keys to building energy efficiency. A third is the use of glass and concrete to assist in heating and cooling. Additionally, smart technology allows for real-time tracking of energy consumption allowing adjustments to be made to ensure peak efficiency and help UCalgary reach their goal to be carbon neutral by 2050.

The new buildings are integrated with UCalgary’s indoor pathway system, allowing comfortable travel between buildings with snowy winters and temps often dropping below freezing.

Hunter Student Commons will be a game-changer in building and amplifying innovation at the University of Calgary and across Calgary.

Keri Damen

Former Executive Director, Hunter Hub for Entrepreneurial Thinking

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