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Through the forest

What if a building could function like a forest ecosystem? Could be an integral part of nature and enhance it?

Whitchurch-Stouffville, Ontario

A brief history of trees

The Bill Fisch Forest Stewardship and Education Centre is part of 90-year effort by the Regional Municipality of York to regenerate a forest that was lost in the 1800s. This massive change to the regional ecosystem was a result of the need to make room for farming. However, after significant soil erosion and demand from citizens to restore the nearly forgotten forest, it has become one of the most successful regenerations of a degraded landscape in North America.

A lab for learning

The new facility replaces a centre that has been there since the 1940s. It is conceived as a powerful teaching tool and living laboratory. It consists of design and construction to consolidate the existing buildings on the site into a single structure. The Bill Fisch Forest Stewardship and Education Centre will facilitate engagement opportunities and visibly integrate nature and innovative sustainable building practice into comprehensive education programming.

Carbon negative

One of the key insights emerging from this project is the understanding that buildings are integral parts of larger local and regional ecosystems. The surrounding forest inspires a building seamlessly integrated into its ecosystem. Given that carbon emissions do not respect boundaries, buildings can no longer afford to think about resolving the carbon issue simply within the framework of building and site. Every aspect of this project’s design speaks to how the Centre can affectively contribute to both local and regional ecosystems. Ultimately, the project, including its site, will not only be carbon neutral, or net-zero carbon, but will in fact be carbon negative, sequestering more CO2e in the forest over the next year alone than required to build the project.

Living Building Challenge

Targeting both LEED Platinum and the Living Building Challenge (LBC), the centre is taking on the most vigorous sustainability certifications in the world. This continues the Regional Municipality of York's commitment to being global leaders in forest management. Considerations range from non-toxic construction materials to the way the centre gathers energy from the sun and purifies the water it uses before returning it to the site.

Cross laminated timbre

The project pushes the boundaries on the use of wood with the integration of Cross Laminated Timber (CLT). This is the only fully renewable heavy-duty building material and requires a fraction of the carbon required to produce more commonly used materials. While maintaining the highest quality and durability, the use of CLT significantly limits the use of chemical compounds and simultaneously sequesters and stores carbon.

Project facts

Site Size: 82 Hectares
Building Size: 3,895 sq. ft./ 362 sq. m.
Cost: $3.036 Million
Completed: 2015
Collaborators: Forestry Stewardship & Interpretation, Jeff Schnurr

Achievements & Awards

2015
Environmental Building Award, Canadian Wood Council, Ontario Wood Works!
 

2016
Architizer A+ Awards Architecture +Learning Special Mention
 

2016
Canadian Green Building Awards - Ontario and Technical Merit Awards