Something Shiny in the Forest – LEED Platinum Certification for BFFSEC

Something Shiny in the Forest – LEED Platinum Certification for BFFSEC

Bill Fisch Forest Stewardship and Education Centre (BFFSEC) located in Whitchurch-Stouffville, ON has successfully achieved its LEED® Certification from CaGBC. The project was awarded an impressive 82 points and has been certified LEED® Platinum under the LEED® Canada NC 2009 rating system. Later this year, the project is slated to receive official certification for all seven petals of the Living Building Challenge.
In order to achieve this standard, the design incorporated the following sustainable elements:

  • The project is located on an FSC-certified forest site with stringent preservation and development criteria.  A transportation demand management plan, as well as site-equipped bike racks and electric vehicle charging stations, is in place to reduce single-occupancy vehicle use to access the education centre.
  • The project is not connected to the municipal water service and relies solely on rainwater and potable water from the on-site well.  All flush fixtures use captured runoff from the roof; waste water is thoroughly treated and returns no pollutants.
  • The education centre is a net-positive energy performer.  A roof-mounted PV panel array provides 43,734 kWh of electrical capacity annually to run the highly-efficient mechanical services (HRVs, radiant floor heating and LED lighting).  The building incorporates cooling in the multi-purpose room only and relies on strategically placed operable windows to maintain occupant comfort.
  • A measurement and verification system is in place to ensure energy consumption operates efficiently and can always be met by the on-site energy production can
  • The building envelope was detailed for an R70 roof, R44 walls, triple-glaze windows, minimal thermal bridging and airtightness.  Portions of the roof not covered with PV have a high-albedo membrane.
  • A significant amount of material was sourced from local industries, and 100% of all wood products, including the glulam beams and CLT panels, are FSC-certified.  This criteria was especially significant as the Hollidge Tract is also an FSC-certified forest.
  • To ensure a high-level of indoor air quality, the education centre is equipped with CO2 sensors, and all finish materials were selected to be VOC and no-added urea formaldehyde compliant.
  • To respect the heritage and preservation of the Hollidge tract, the education centre was designed to a 90-year lifecycle; its design and construction underwent a building envelope commissioning process to reinforce this intent.
About Bill Fisch Forest Stewardship and Education Centre:To meet the challenge of designing the “greenest education centre ever built”, design firm DIALOG brought together an interdisciplinary team of architects, engineers, and interior designers, as well as forest education experts, arborists and ecologists. This allowed the team to develop a holistic solution designed to restore the natural habitats and surrounding ecosystems of York Region’s forests.Bill Fisch Forest and Stewardship Education Centre (BFFSEC) was created to help the residents of York-Region, and the extended community, learn about the importance of natural resources and forest ecosystems. This was achieved by creating a space for education, community meetings, and operations. In addition to its LEED® Platinum certification, the BFFSEC is seeking Full Seven Petal status under the Living Building Challenge.

“We wanted to create a building that could function like a forest ecosystem, be an integral part of nature and enhance it”

Craig Applegath, DIALOG Principal-in-Charge.

The use of wood in the design is integral to the building’s performance. The structure is built almost entirely of laminated and Cross-Laminated Timber (CLT), all of which is FSC sustainably harvested or recycled wood, and is designed and constructed in a manner that will allow it to be easily disassembled and recycled in the future—similar to the project’s exterior wood cladding, which was salvaged and repurposed from local buildings at the end of their life.

The CLT panels allowed the team to achieve significant roof cantilevers while maintaining a thin profile, and supporting the live and dead loads, such as PV solar panels and snow. The supporting Glulam structure is “hidden” by placing it above the CLT panels. All connections are removed from sight, resulting in a monolithic interior appearance of the underside of the panel above, seamlessly transitioning the interior to the exterior.

Interior finishes include Black Spruce CLT, Maple veneer wall panels, Maple louvres, and reclaimed Ash. The predominant interior finish is CLT for the walls and ceiling. Several featured interior wall panels are clad in Maple Veneered FSC plywood. The open office areas are separated from the circulation corridor by a series of horizontal spanning maple louvres which are supported off a metal frame.

The main entry reception desk integrates reclaimed Ash bearing the scars of the invasive Emerald Ash Borer insect, who has caused wide spread destruction across Ontario forests. Its presence provides a didactic reminder of the vulnerability of our forest systems.

Living trees offer their impressions in the leaf-patterned concrete flooring — a visual clue, that even inside the building, visitors are walking the forest floor. Locally collected deadfall fuels the wood-burning hearth, enhancing the energy efficiency of the building, and reducing the release of additional carbon into the atmosphere.

BFFSEC’s integrated design team innovatively combined thoughtful design, strategic use of material, and sustainable best practices to meet the client’s green building objectives. The result is an Education Centre that reflects the site and its ecosystem, creates an inspiring and enduring place of learning, and has a projected 90-year life-cycle.

Working with the Regional Municipality of York, the following consultants formed the design and construction teams:

  • Architectural – DIALOG
  • Mechanical – DIALOG
  • Electrical – DIALOG
  • Structural – DIALOG
  • Civil – MTE Consultants Inc.
  • Sustainability – DIALOG
  • Interior Design – DIALOG
  • Lighting Design – DIALOG
  • Building Envelope Specialist – Dr. Ted Kesik
  • Landscape – DIALOG
  • Forest Expert: Community Forests International
  • Contractor – Struct-Con Construction Ltd.
  • Commissioning – MMM Group


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