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York Region and DIALOG unveil Ontario’s first Living Building Challenge facility


October 20, 2015
by Elsa Lam

The York Region Forest Stewardship Education Centre targets LEED Platinum and Living Building Challenge standards.

The York Region Forest Stewardship Education Centre targets LEED Platinum and Living Building Challenge standards. Photo by Cindy Blazevic

The Regional Municipality of York has officially unveiled its new Bill Fisch Forest Stewardship and Education Centre, a building designed by DIALOG that is an integral part of one of the most successful forest generation projects in the world and helps the community learn about the importance of this natural resource.

The forestry centre took on rigorous sustainability certifications by targeting both LEED Platinum and Living Building Challenge Certification. The result is expected to be the first Full Petal Living Building Challenge facility in Eastern Canada.

Renewable wood is the primary building material for the Centre, which is designed to enjoy a 90-year lifespan.

Renewable wood is the primary building material for the Centre, which is designed to enjoy a 90-year lifespan. Photo by Cindy Blazevic

To achieve the forestry centre design, DIALOG compiled a unique, interdisciplinary team that not only included architects, engineers and interior designers but also forest education experts, arborists and ecologists. The team allowed DIALOG to focus on a holistic solution that worked to restore natural habitats and ecosystems, generate a surplus of clean energy and water and engage, educate and connect the community to the Hollidge Tract of the York Regional Forest.

Living Building Challenge features at the York Region Forest Stewardship Education Centre

Living Building Challenge features at the York Region Forest Stewardship Education Centre. Infographic by Norman Studio.

York Region established a series of green design principles to guide the plans for the centre. The Region wanted to remove boundaries between the building and the forest, ensuring the building’s design reflected the site and its ecosystem to create an inspiring and enduring place of learning with a 90-year project lifecycle.

LED fixtures and ample windows light the buildling.

LED fixtures and ample windows light the building. Photo by Evan Dion

The result is a long single-storey 4,000 square foot rectangular form that includes space for education, corporate and community meetings and operations. The centre is adjacent to one of the first nature trail loops constructed to meet the Built Environment Standard of Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005.

“Almost every building harms our environment, whether it is it is through the use of toxic building materials, the use of energy and water to operate it, or the disposal of materials when it is torn down,” says Craig Applegath, Principal at DIALOG. “We wanted to create a building that could function like a forest ecosystem, be an integral part of nature and enhance it.”

Water diagram

Water diagram

The Bill Fisch Forest Stewardship and Education Centre is expected to achieve net-zero water and net- positive energy performance. The facility relies exclusively on water provided by nature. Rain collected in a trough that cleaves the asymmetrical butterfly roof flows into a cistern that provides water for toilets and urinals, while groundwater wells supply water which undergoes UV filtration prior to its use in sinks and showers. Waste water passes through a treatment system which relies on aerobic and anaerobic bacteria and a bioswale to cleanse it of pollutants.

“The approach required the design team to focus on repairing the ecological damage done by hundreds of years of human intervention and moving it to a state where ecosystems can function as intended,” says Applegath. “Ultimately, the goal of the building was to improve the wellbeing of the region as a whole, and be an integral part of the restored forest.”

Energy diagram

Energy diagram

A high performance building envelope, roof-mounted photovoltaic panels, heat recovery ventilators, in-floor heating, LED lighting, and extensive envelope commissioning, the centre will generate more energy than it uses, feeding renewable power back into the electrical grid.

Details of the wood structure and interior.

Details of the wood structure and interior. Photos by Evan Dion

The project pushes the boundaries on the use of wood with the integration of Cross Laminated Timber (CLT). While maintaining the highest quality and durability, the use of CLT significantly limits the use of chemical compounds and simultaneously sequesters and stores significant amounts of carbon.

The Full Petal LBC certification is an ongoing process. The Bill Fisch Forest Stewardship and Education Centre will need to be open for at least 12 months and pass through a rigorous auditing process before it receives its official designation.

To view a video of the building, please visit https://vimeo.com/141227639.



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2 Comments » for York Region and DIALOG unveil Ontario’s first Living Building Challenge facility
  1. Jonathan Ehling says:

    Beautiful building. I love the team approach to design. Reminds me a lot of the North Vancouver Outdoor School facility in Brackendale, BC. Similar concerns to energy conservation and forestry stewardship… and above all, site management.

  2. Al Thompson says:

    when will the building be open to the public and the forest be re opened?

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