The Bill Fisch Forest Stewardship and Education Centre

Whitechurch-Stouffville, Ontario

January 4, 2017

Rating System/Standard
LEED 2009
Certification Level

Immersed in the York Region Forest, the Bill Fisch Forest Stewardship and Education Centre was constructed almost entirely of wood and exists in harmony with its surroundings. The building provides forestry staff and the local community with a space to explore the importance of natural resources.

In order to design a building that is a living demonstration of the principles of forest stewardship, DIALOG brought together an interdisciplinary team of architects, engineers, and interior designers, and included forest education experts, arborists and ecologists. Their work paid off and the Centre received LEED for New Construction and Major Renovations Platinum certification in January 2017.

The following case study was written using responses previously provided for a LEED Spotlight in June 2017, and is the result of an interview with Charles Marshall, Associate, Sustainable Design at DIALOG.

Inspired by nature

For this project, the integrated design team established a set of principles: remove boundaries between the building and the forest; ensure the design reflects the site and its ecosystem; and create an inspiring and enduring place of learning.

Those principles were met by establishing the following design and performance targets:

  • A high-performance building envelope, reducing heating and cooling loads, including highly insulated walls (R40) and roof (R60) combined with triple-pane, argon-filled glazing.
  • A window-to-wall ratio below 30 percent, with windows located for optimal day-lighting.
  • An east-west orientation, south-facing glazing and large overhangs to maximize passive solar design.
  • Energy reduction strategies including continuous dimming of lighting systems in suitable areas, heat-recovery ventilation, LED lighting and electrical equipment targeting lowest possible power use.
  • Net-zero water, using captured rainwater to supply toilets and urinals, as well as a biological filtration device to treat all wastewater on-site.
  • Renewable energy provided by a 35 kW solar panel array mounted on the roof, projected to generate 38 MWh of clean energy annually.
  • Active participation from building staff to achieve energy goals and green operations.

“At DIALOG, we provide architecture, engineering, and design services to several industries and sectors, and we find that each one has its unique drivers for building green,” says Mr. Marshall. “For this project in particular, it was obvious that development needed to be as sustainable as we could possibly achieve. The purpose of this building is to teach visitor groups, including visitors from local schools and community groups, about our relationship with nature. The building had to reflect that content and communicate the values of stewardship.”

Going for LEED Platinum

The project team considered several benchmarks and rating systems for this project. With the York Region and DIALOG both havinga long history delivering LEED projects, it was a clear choice to move forward with LEED certification.

“The real discussion was, what could we do along side LEED, and that discussion led us to pursue the Living Building Challenge (LBC),” says Mr. Marshall. “Once we targeted the project as a Living Building, the natural alignment of LBC and LEED led us to pursue a LEED Platinum rating. Since York Region typically build every new development to a LEED Silver standard, this project was intended to stand out.”

Providing an innovative project that sets ambitious goals

York Region is dedicated to environmental sustainability now and for the future. Their goal was to create the most sustainable education centre in North America. “The integrated team innovatively combined thoughtful design, strategic use of materials, and sustainable best practices to meet the client’s green building objectives,” says Mr. Marshall. “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.”

DIALOG‘s vision is to meaningfully improve the wellbeing of communities and the environment. They believe that they have a responsibility as designers to advance the practice of sustainability. “Our team is very proud of Bill Fisch Forest Stewardship and Education Centre,” says Mr. Marshall. “It sets the standard that we aspire to. Creating buildings of this caliber is good for our business. It inspires our staff and attracts talented people to join us in our journey.”

Creating a space that motivates visitors and staff

The York Region forestry staff, who use the building, are enthusiastic about the centre. “People will come to this building to understand what being sustainable is all about, what making the right choices – the tough choices – is all about. This building will inspire people for decades,” says Ian Buchanan, Manager of Natural Heritage and Forestry for the Region.

The building used no toxic materials in its construction, resulting in high air-quality and temperature is maintained at comfortable levels through ceiling fans and automatic louvered windows. Amenities for staff include access to showers, kitchen facilities and electric car charging stations.

“Visiting a forest can be a transcendent experience, restoring the connection between humans and the ecosystem that is lost in today’s complex urban world,” says Mr. Marshall. “By educating visitors about sustainability, forestry, stewardship, and regeneration, Bill Fisch Forest Stewardship and Education Centre has an opportunity to inspire change not just within one building, but within the entire community.”


Certification LevelPlatinum
Rating SystemLEED Canada for New Construction and Major Renovations 2009
Total Points earned82
Sustainable Sites14 out of 26
Water Efficiency10 out of 10
Energy & Atmosphere33 out of 35
Materials & Resources6 out of 14
Indoor Environmental Quality10 out of 15
Innovation6 out of 6
Regional Priority3 out of 4

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