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International Living Future Institute certifies Bill Fisch Forest Stewardship and Education Centre the first Living Building Challenge project in Canada

January 24, 2020

York Region’s Bill Fisch Forest Stewardship and Education Centre has been awarded Living Building Challenge certification by the International Living Future Institute; the most rigorous sustainability standard in the world.

“A truly inspirational example of forest stewardship and regenerative building construction, the Bill Fisch Forest and Stewardship Education Centre integrates with the local ecology and becomes one with its forest neighbors,” said Amanda Sturgeon, CEO of the International Living Future Institute. “The Centre is a model example of humanity’s ability to reconcile our relationship with nature.”

“The Bill Fisch Forest Stewardship and Education Centre (BFFSEC) was created to help 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, corporate and community meetings, and operations”, said York Region Chairman and CEO Wayne Emmerson.

From the beginning, The Regional Municipality of York conveyed to DIALOG that they wanted the new 370 sq m (4000 sq ft) building to be “the greenest education centre ever built”. To achieve this goal, DIALOG brought together an interdisciplinary team that included architects, engineers, and interior designers, as well as forest education experts, arborists and ecologists to design a building that would be net-zero energy, net-zero water and offer an inspired place of learning with a projected 90-year life-cycle.

Targeting the Living Building Challenge (LBC) was a natural fit for the project since the ideals of the certification closely aligned with both York Region and DIALOG’s own beliefs.

“When we learned about this project we said to ourselves – what a great opportunity! We can bring all of our understanding, our ideals, our integrated design methodology, and our passion together in one symbolic project”, says Craig Applegath, DIALOG Principal in Charge.

To achieve the highest levels of sustainability certification, every aspect of the building is designed with this in mind. Initiatives included solar energy harvesting, on-site waste water treatment, and rain water collection.

According to the International Living Future Institute, “Living buildings give more than they take, creating a positive impact on the human and natural systems that interact with them.” Successful projects demonstrate excellence in seven performance areas called petals over a minimum of 12 months of continuous occupancy.

Place – Restoring a healthy interrelationship with nature.
Water – Creating developments that operate within the water balance of a given place and climate.
Energy – Relying only on current solar income.
Health & Happiness – Creating environments that optimize physical and psychological health.
Materials – Endorsing products that are safe for all species through time.
Equity – Supporting a just and equitable world.
Beauty – Celebrating design that uplifts the human spirit.


Meeting the red-list requirements for a Living Building under the Materials petal was the most challenging aspect of achieving this certification. This required the complete elimination of 20 chemicals of concern which include carcinogens, toxinogens, mutagens, persistent bio accumulative chemicals, and hormone disruptors. A materials advocacy letter was issued to approximately 10,000 suppliers to request health product declarations and environmental product declarations for all products.

The use of wood in the design was integral to the building’s performance and appropriate to its function as a Forest Education Centre. The structure was built almost entirely of laminated and Cross-Laminated Timber (CLT), all of which was FSC sustainably harvested or recycled wood, and was designed to be easily disassembled and recycled in the future when BFFSEC comes to the end of its useful life—like the project’s exterior wood cladding, which was salvaged and repurposed from the old Cascades warehouse in Toronto at the end of its life.

“Opportunities of this sort don’t come along very often. We knew if we wanted to do a LBC building, this was our chance. It’s a nice flat site, incorporates natural storm water management, natural infiltration, and at the same time this site demands that you do something special”, say Charles Marshall, Sustainability Consultant at DIALOG.


The resulting building has met all seven petals of the LBC, and was granted its certification on May 17, 2018. BFFSEC is the first LBC certified project in Canada, the second outside of the US, and one of only 21 buildings achieving full LBC certification worldwide. This achievement is in addition to the project’s significant accomplishments, including:

  • LEED® Platinum certification
  • Public Project of the Year – American Public Works Association
  • Public Project of the Year – Ontario Public Works Association Canadian
  • Green Building Award – CaGBC
  • Leadership Award – Forest Stewardship Council
  • Environmental Building Award – Canadian Wood Council
  • A+ Award – Architizer

BFFSEC represents the inaugural project in our net-zero portfolio. Other net-zero or zero-carbon initiatives include the University of Calgary’s MacKimmie Complex and PSPC’s Arthur Meighen Building Rehabilitation; both projects contributing to our 2030 Commitment.

This certification is a major achievement. Congratulations to the entire BFFSEC team!

Learn more about BFFSEC here.

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