Ask the Expert: Visit some of Canada’s sustainable sites this summer

With another beautiful Canadian summer in full swing, many of you are perhaps relaxing at cottages, camping in one of our beautiful national parks, or going on a road trip to some far corner of the country.

But taking some time for well deserved rest doesn’t mean that you can’t be inspired by sustainable projects! In a bit of a departure from our usual question and answer format, we thought it would be fun to ask our resident green building experts on the CaGBC LEED Team to suggest a few green building and sustainable sites to visit this year while soaking up the summer sun.

Here are just a few suggested of sustainable sites to visit across the country:

Joggins Fossil Centre
Nova Scotia

Located in Joggins, Nova Scotia in the upper Bay of Fundy area, this aptly named Centre is certified LEED Gold and was built to reflect the natural beauty of the surrounding Joggins Cliffs. A UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site, scientists have studied the cliffs for more than a century and visitors from around the world have come to explore the fossils in their unique setting.

Visitors to the Centre can visit the exhibit room where they will learn about the area and the fossils that make up its namesake. After learning about the cliffs, go on a 30 minute tour with an interactive guide – the best way to see the them first-hand.

For more information, visit

Hôtel M - Holiday Inn Express & Suites Saint-Hyacinthe

After a long day of driving, what better way to relax than getting a good night’s sleep at a green hotel? The LEED Certified Hôtel M in Saint-Hyacinthe is a perfect example of how many hotels and motels in Canada are now going beyond the basic environmental practices, and giving their guests a truly sustainable stay.

Located at exit 133 on Highway 20 (45 minutes from Montreal), this hotel features a wide array of practices that make it green, including:

  • A well-insulated white roof  that reflects sunlight and also helps limit space-cooling energy consumption during the summer;
  • A base building material that was made from the concrete of a dismantled bridge; and
  • A salt pool filtering system that eliminates the need for chemicals like chlorine, to name just a few.

For more information, visit

Royal Botanical Gardens - Camilla and Peter Dalglish Atrium

The Royal Botanical Gardens (RBG) in Burlington, Ontario, located about an hour outside of Toronto, is a National Historic Site in Canada with 2,400 acres of natural beauty, criss-crossed with 27 km of walking trails. A beautiful display of nature in itself, this land offers visitors guided tours and demonstrations, environmental art installations throughout the site called ‘Earth Art’, and the opportunity to see the more than 50 species at risk who call it home.

While visiting, be sure to check out a key feature of the Gardens – the Camilla and Peter Dalglish Atrium which is a LEED Gold certified facility that serves as a year-round, barrier-free, connecting link between RBG Centre and the Hendrie Park Gardens. Marvel at the large glass pavilion that is bounded on the north side by a permanent vertical Living Wall, and the highly transparent glazed walls that fill the space with light creating a dramatic impact, day and night.

For more information on the RBG and the Atrium, visit

West End Cultural Centre

Converted from an 80-year-old church into Winnipeg’s premiere concert and entertainment venue, the West End Cultural Centre (WECC) is LEED Gold certified, and the first green music hall in Canada.

After realizing that the Centre had major structural and accessibility issues, the grassroots non-profit group that began the WECC decided to go green during the renovation. The project met LEED standards by incorporating its history into the redesign – re-using 85 per cent of the materials from the existing building.

Doors, floor boards, joists, bricks, wiring and electrical boxes were all reused in the new structure. They also harvested materials from other buildings, like mezzanine theatre seats from the former Epic Theatre, and solid oak doors, windows and bathroom partitions from a Calgary courthouse scheduled for demolition – and the result is truly unique.

For more information on the WECC, visit

Dinosaur Provincial Park Visitor Centre and Tyrrell Field Station

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Dinosaur Provincial Park is recognized internationally for its unique “badlands” landscape and for being one of the most extensive fossil beds in the world. Both the Dinosaur Park Visitor Centre and the Tyrrell Museum Field Station include LEED Gold certified facilities.

Dinosaur's visitor centre has interactive displays, a gift shop, and an 80-seat theatre. Once in the park, visit the fascinating Tyrrell Field Station where fossils and more are researched, displayed and interpreted. Inside the Field Station you will also see dynamic displays of what life was like 75 million years ago.

When these facilities were expanded, project planners included sustainable features such as the use of native species shade structures to provide respite from the high summer temperatures, and a dark sky lighting strategy to minimize disturbance of nocturnal wildlife and support celestial viewing. Water savings were also a key factor given how scarce it is in this region, among other features.

For more information on Dinosaur Provincial Park and Tyrrell Field Station, visit

Whistler Public Library
British Columbia

While Whistler is known as a winter retreat, many people don’t realize that it is an equally beautiful and exciting place to visit in the summer months. With slightly cooler temperatures, it’s also a great place to relax and try out some adventure sports or a hike through the mountains.

A number of facilities in Whistler are also built to green standards; a fitting feature considering the resort is surrounded by nature. One great example of this is the Whistler Public Library, situated in the bustling Whistler Village.

This LEED Gold certified library was the first major project to be built following the Municipality’s adoption of the Whistler 2020 initiative, with a goal of being a premier mountain resort that has sustainability as one of its key features. As such, the building was intended to showcase sustainable design principles in a visually apparent manner. For example, the green roof is fabricated from local second growth hemlock, which demonstrates an aesthetically pleasing and sustainable use of “value added” wood that is harvested, milled and prefabricated in British Columbia.

While inside, you can also take a look at their unique Sustainability Collection which contains books and DVDs on a variety of green issues.

For more information on the Whistler Library, visit


For more great ideas of sustainable sites to visit at any time of year, you can access our LEED Projects in Canada list here which is updated monthly. If you would like to share suggestions of your own favourite sustainable vacation sites in Canada, send us a tweet or post a discussion item on our CaGBC LinkedIn group. We'd love to hear from you!