Manitoba Hydro Place & Green Roof

Winnipeg, Manitoba

Photo Credits: KPMB and HTFC



Research by: Samantha Miller

Edited by: Nicole Brekelmans

Case study compiled in 2019



Project: Manitoba Hydro Place & Green Roof 

Type of Urban Strategy: Smart Cities, Permaculture, Sustainable Design

Type of ProjectHigh Rise Sustainability

LocationWinnipeg, Manitoba

Date Designed/Planned: 2005

Construction Completed: 2009

DesignerLandscape Architecture: HTFC, PFS Studio

Building Design Architect: KPMB, Prairie Architects


Manitoba Hydro Place, located in the heart of downtown Winnipeg, is an internationally recognized project that models extreme climate responsive design. Every aspect of the design was intended to achieve 60% energy savings through its use of passive strategies, and human comfort strategies. The building falls in line with the revitalization strategy for Winnipeg, with its response to the urban streetscape and economic development tactic. The use of winter gardens, green roofs and urban landscape design allows the building to benefit from passive heating, cooling and air ventilation systems while helping to green the city. The site analysis portion of the design process was focused on where to place the building to maximize its position within the natural elements such as sun and wind and its position amongst the public transit networks that exist in downtown Winnipeg. There is a beautifully landscaped plaza that hosts public functions and farmer’s markets and provides employees and pedestrians with a green rest stop and walkway. This project is significant and an excellent case study in smart cities, permaculture, and green strategies, because it uses intelligent landscape design and vegetation to activate the urban streetscape and improve employee satisfaction, and its iconic design adds a new element in the Winnipeg skyline.


“To achieve design innovation at such scale and ambition, an exceptional client is needed. Manitoba Hydro had a clear vision and understanding of the implications for design, construction, and management. The result is a testament to a committed client, an integrated design and construction team, and skillful project management… By investing in the future health of its employees and citizens of Winnipeg, Manitoba Hydro sets a precedent for environmentally responsive large scale building design and city building” (Kuwabara, Auer, Gouldsborough, Akerstream & Klym, 2009).



Located in downtown Winnipeg, at 360 Portage Avenue, the Manitoba Hydro Place is the headquarters for Manitoba Hydro. After the corporation purchased Winnipeg Hydro, they needed a new headquarter office that would house all of the employees that have been spread out, and meet the future business needs of the corporation. It was intended to be a model for superior energy-efficient high rise design and operation. In its design phase, it was expected that this tower would use 65% less energy than other comparable sized office towers (Hydro 360 Brochure, n.d.). “Manitoba Hydro is a central player in the energy and environment sector with a strong commitment to sustainable development. Manitoba Hydro exports electricity to more than 30 electric utilities in Canada and the Midwest U.S. Nearly all electricity (96 percent) generated by Manitoba Hydro is from self-renewing hydropower from 15 hydroelectric generating stations” (City of Winnipeg | Energy and Environment, 2014) Although the project was intended to use 65% less energy than other office buildings, it actually uses over 70% less energy. It was awarded a LEED Platinum certification in May 2012 because of its outstanding energy-efficient and sustainable design and systems. Some of the incredible systems include its passive systems (south-facing winter gardens, natural daylighting, and a solar chimney, green roofs), active systems (dimmable, programmable lighting) and it's landscape design that helps bring people to and through the space (Manitoba Hydro, n.d.). The design of the building and its surrounding landscape design won the 2006 Canadian Architect’s Award for Design Excellence, as well as over 16 other recognitions and awards (Winnipeg Architecture Foundation, n.d.).


The total cost of the project was $258 million, which covered construction, professional services, IT, communication and security infrastructure, furniture, PowerSmart incentives, and interest on capital (IISBE, n.d.).


The Manitoba Hydro Place is located on 360 Portage Avenue, between Carlton Street, Edmonton Street, and Graham Avenue. Winnipeg, located in the centre of North America, is known for being one of the coldest large cities in the world, as well as one of the sunniest locations in Canada. Residents of Winnipeg must always be prepared for below -35°C winters, and +35°summers, with strong southern winds in the summer, and strong north-westerly winds in the winter. This makes it challenging to design extremely energy efficient high rises because of the amount of energy used to heat and cool the building. The location of downtown Winnipeg, specifically the intersection of Portage Avenue and Main Street is known as the windiest intersection in Canada, and Winnipeg is also known for having more precipitation than any other Prairie city. (IISBE, n.d.). The site for the Manitoba Hydro Building was selected because of its position within Downtown Winnipeg, being within proximity to the elevated walkway system in which it was intended to be connected. It is amongst most of the major bus routes in the city, making it an active and essential hub in downtown (IISBE, n.d.). HTFC and PFS Studio worked together on the site design for the green office building. The firms were responsible for site work design and implementation, meaning they started with extensive site analysis (HTFC). “The podium and tower marries the large building mass with street-level scale, connects to the downtown skywalk system, the main gallery provides space for community and corporate events, landscaped public courtyard and park Graham Avenue.” (Manitoba Hydro, n.d.)


One of the significant challenges in designing this building was Winnipeg’s unpredictable and harsh climate. Winnipeg has a unique amount of sunshine and strong south winds. KPMB decided to capitalize on this and harness passive solar and wind energies through the form of the building and the design of the atriums and waterfalls (KPMB, n.d.). Additional challenges included creating a well-integrated building in downtown, that connects and activates the city’s revitalization strategy. Winnipeg, in general, is challenged with an ageing building stock, with a history of out-migration of young people, which is another reason why this building needed to have a significant impact on the city’s urbanization strategy (IISBE, n.d.).


One of the main goals of the project was to achieve a 60% energy reduction in hopes to make it more efficient than conventional Winnipeg buildings (KPMB). Aside from energy efficiency, the project intended to maintain occupant comfort, creating a healthy and productive workplace. They wished for the project to have a positive impact for the downtown Winnipeg area with its signature architecture that stands out in the skyline, and with a global standard in energy efficiency and sustainability (IISBE, n.d.).


“The average Canadian spends 36.6 hours a week working, so it stands to reason that the spaces where they occupy so much of their time should treat them well. As organizations move toward more open concept offices and look at how best to attract and retain top talent, the idea of providing a more sustainable workspace is also growing in momentum” (Canada Green Building Council, n.d.). A manual for green roof policies and programs was created to give North Americans examples and jurisdictions as to how to correctly and effectively employ a green roof strategy into their designs. Green roof programs and policies help to promote green space in dense urban areas and provide information about alternatives to the standard stormwater infrastructures that exist. The manual was created by an advisory committee consisting of representatives across Canada, where they feature case studies and information about 12 jurisdictions of leaders in the concept and a possible 13 additional less-developed jurisdictions. The primary purpose in creating this manual was to help cities and designers understand the application of green roofs and how to develop and support the technology in their city (Lawlor, Currie, Doshi & Wieditz, 2006).


The design of the Manitoba Hydro Place was intended to work in harmony with the natural Winnipeg environment and the over 2,150 employees and even more visitors. The designers and contractors wanted to achieve a very high green standard, which meant the green techniques needed to begin during the very first phase. The project construction commenced in 2005 following the site selection process. This phase involved deconstructing the existing building on site, where they were able to carefully deconstruct the building to reuse, recycle or salvage 95% of the materials from the old structures (Hydro 360, n.d.). The building is inspired by the monumentality of the power dam, through its use of concrete, and water features which also serve internal climate controlling functions. Additional, the retail strategy of the interior spaces were focused on supporting knowledge economies instead of service economies. Following the city’s urban revitalization strategy meant that the building should radiate activity into downtown instead of containing it all in this space. To achieve this, there are no large retail stores such as Starbucks or Tim Hortons, forcing the employees to venture out to other stores in the downtown area and put dollars into the city’s economy (IISBE, n.d.). The designed elements of the building were meant to maximize employee productivity and comfort while minimizing energy consumption. This was achieved through the design of bright open floor spaces, high ceilings, operable windows, 100% fresh air ventilation, and green roofs, to name a few (Hydro 360, n.d.). The green roofs are located on the third floor and both the east and west sides of the building (Manitoba Hydro, n.d.). The green roofs use native prairie plants to reduce stormwater runoff, convert CO2 to O2, reduce cooling requirements and minimize urban heat island. Several other energy efficient features include its winter gardens, lighting fixtures, materials, and geothermal systems (Hydro 360, n.d.). For the green roofs, the selection of plants were carefully thought through. The designers selected a majority of native, drought-tolerant species that do not require irrigation once established. For the green spaces that might require irrigation, the designers implement a high-efficiency drip irrigation system that uses the tower’s cooling coils and rainwater, therefore they do not have to use any potable water. Aside from the green roofs, over half of the original site was restored to include adaptive vegetation, which helps to reduce stormwater runoff further. They also included three, six-story winter gardens on the south side of the building, which help precondition air intake (Prairie Architects - Eco Facts, n.d.). HTFC mentioned that they facilitated Aboriginal involvement in the design phase. They worked with PFS and KPMB to design the main outdoor space that is used for thousands of employees and commuters that use Graham Ave. daily. The design of the outdoor space is intended to soften the hard-edged street and provide a comfortable green pocket in the city, which also captures stormwater for the green roof and irrigation system in a cistern underneath. This plaza is called the Graham Grove, which hosts weekly farmer’s markets, and a lush rest stop for workers and passersby (HTFC, n.d.).


The Manitoba Hydro building and its corresponding landscape design required many different designers and consultants. The building was designed by Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg Architects (KPMB). Some of the other groups and people involved were energy engineers, PCL Constructors, quantity surveyors, structural engineers, electrical & mechanical engineers, civil engineers, geotechnical engineers, and Dan Euser Waterarchitecture Inc. for the water features. HTFC and PFS landscape architecture firms were asked to design the green roofs and street-level landscape design (Manitoba Hydro, n.d.) Prairie Architects Inc. were the professional advisors of the project, responsible for coordinating the overall development. This included reviewing best practices in sustainable high-rise office buildings. They were also responsible for designing a selection process for consultants, and selection of the site based on sustainability, cost, and zoning. As the project moved forward, Prairie Architects were also asked to join together all 30 of their team members to work on parts of the design for the building (Prairie Architects, n.d.).


The Manitoba Hydro building employs a vertical neighbourhoods strategy, which is intended to organize the spaces and enhance communication, orientation and sense of community. With six 3-storey north atria and three 6-storey south atria, the different units and divisions are organized and kept together while supporting internal communication and interaction (IISBE, n.d.). There is an interior loft space that allows for maximum space planning opportunities, adaptable change in corporate organization and new technologies. The floor plans include larger formal meeting rooms, casual meeting spaces with movable partitions, closed offices and cubicles. The benefits of the construction are seen on an individual level with plenty of access to natural light, 100% fresh air, individual control of ventilation, glare control with louvres and blinds, and electronic sound masking (IISBE, n.d.).


“More than 15,000 people have toured Manitoba Hydro Place and without question one of the first comments always relates to the fresh quality of air (displacement ventilation) and how bright the office space is (natural light)” (Canada Green Building Council, n.d.). Manitoba Hydro surpassed its energy efficiency target and is 70% more energy efficient than the standard office tower. Because of this, the building has saved over $750,000 annually, and due to the life cycle of all the features and materials, the building is proven to be not only energy efficient and sustainable, but also cost-effective (Canada Green Building Council). There has been an immense amount of positive feedback on the building, especially from the over 2,000 employees who work in the building. The employees report on natural light and air quality and how it affects their mental and physical health. There has since been a significant drop in employee absenteeism in this building compared to any other Manitoba Hydro facility. So much so, that employees of Manitoba Hydro sometimes bid on jobs that are located in the Manitoba Hydro Place. The project has one every engineering and architectural award, nationally and internationally, and has been published in over 35 major publications and over 10 notable books (Canada Green Building Council). Its impact on the urban revitalization of the city is a very critically successful element that is often overlooked. The design team put a lot of effort into understanding the transportation needs of the employees and the downtown area in general. They understood that transportation to and from the building would significantly affect the building’s carbon footprint, so they located the building along a primary transit corridor. This was so impactful that it led to a shift from 95% of staff driving themselves to work, to over 70% of staff now taking transit, or choosing active transportation methods or carpooling. The landscape design at street level activates the space, creating tenant space in the ground floor of the building and out to the south park for farmer’s market and other events downtown. Architecturally, the Winnipeg Skyline has been significantly altered in a positive way, and the building has been considered an iconic image that adds to the rich architectural heritage of Winnipeg (Canada Green Building Council). Manitoba Hydro Place is the third most energy-efficient large scale building in the world and is the first large-scale office tower in all of North America to be LEED Platinum-certified (KPMB, n.d.).


In 2002, Manitoba Hydro purchased Winnipeg Hydro from the City of Winnipeg, with a critical condition of committing to building a new office building in downtown Winnipeg. There were many reasons for this purchase agreement; one of the main goals was to bring together 2000 employees that were all working in many leased offices spread out in the suburbs into one collaborative building. Bob Brennan (President), Tom Gouldsborough (Division Manager of Corporate Planning and Business Development, and Project Manager for Manitoba Hydro Place), and Tom Akerstream (Manager Facilities) created the vision for the new building (Kuwabara, et al., 2009). One year before the architects and engineers were selected, Manitoba Hydro sent a delegation of people to Europe to visit energy efficient design and architectural buildings of excellence. After this, Manitoba hydro dedicated a full year to develop the design concept, with workshops and design charrettes (Kuwabara, et al., 2009).


CGBC | LEED Profile: Read how Manitoba Hydro Place surpassed energy goals one year after LEED Platinum certification. (n.d.). Retrieved July 10, 2019, from Economic Development Invest Winnipeg. (n.d.). Retrieved July 10, 2019, from HTFC | Featured Projects. (n.d.). Retrieved July 10, 2019, from Hydro 360 Brouchure. (n.d.). Retrieved July 11, 2019, from IISBE | A Model for Cold Climate Design. (n.d.). Retrieved July 11, 2019, from KPMB | Manitoba Hydro Place. (n.d.). Retrieved July 10, 2019, from Kuwabara, B., Auer, T., Gouldsborough, T., Tom Akerstream, T., & Klym, G. (2009, June). Manitoba Hydro Place Integrated Design Process Exemplar. In PLEA2009 - 26th Conference on Passive and Low Energy Architecture. Retrieved July 10, 2019, from FINAL.pdf Lawlor, G., Currie, B. A., Doshi, H., & Wieditz, I. (2006). Green Roofs: A Resource Manual for Municipal Policy Makers (Canada, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation). Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication. Manitoba Hydro | Manitoba Hydro Place design & construction. (n.d.). Retrieved July 10, 2019, from

Manitoba Hydro Place. (n.d.). Retrieved July 11, 2019, from