Climate Change Consultation – August 4/ 2016, Burlington, ON

This Thursday, August 4th, one of our Collaborative members (Ethan Griesbach) will be presenting a Living Building Challenge at the Climate Change Consultation in Burlington.

The purpose of this consultation, organized by MP Karina Gould, is to get your input on how to address climate change and promote clean growth.

The organizers hope to have an open and engaged discussion on climate change (talking about Canada wide issues as well as local Burlington issues). The meeting will focus on two main objectives: to raise awareness on issues around climate change and to get feedback and ideas from people in the community on what the Government (and all Canadians) should be doing to solve this issue. MP Gould’s office then plans to pass this feedback to the Environment and Climate Change Ministry.

Come and join the discussion! Especially, if you are looking for the ways to get involved: there will be a table with brochures and information on volunteer and environmental initiatives in the community.

Who knows, maybe the next Ontario’s Living Building will be built in Burlington?

Date and Time: Thursday, August 4th, 2016, from 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM

Place: Mainway Recreation Centre (Auditorium) – 4015 Mainway, Burlington

Please RSVP to join ( Disregard the mentioned RSVP deadline, there are still seats available – just follow through steps! )


Audrey’s Local Living Centre

At the end of May, on the same day when we went to see the Bill Fisch Education Centre in the York Regional forest, we were lucky to visit another noteworthy place.


Audrey’s Local Living Centre – a farm, located only five minutes away from The Bill Fisch in the same town of Witchurch-Stouffville. Here, Audrey Baynes (one of the Toronto LBC Collaborative founders) is turning one of her barns into a local green education centre. It will be a place where those interested in sustainable practices with regards to food and architecture can obtain new knowledge and practical skills, exchange their ideas and connect with like-minded people of their community. As per Audrey’s vision, it will also be “a food hub of local producers, workshops for food preserving, seed saving…the list is endless!”.

Design Concept

Audrey’s team, with the help of Engineering students of UofT, had studies done that will guide them on how to convert the existing barn into a model that reflects the Living Building Challenge. The LBC recommendations will be combined with the design aspects of Earthship (a type of passive solar house that is made of both natural and recycled materials) & other off-grid technologies.

In regards to space layout, the main level of this two-storey educational centre will house a multifunctional area for classes/workshops and a community kitchen, while the second floor will feature a residential model unit which will work as a teaching tool and as a small sustainable hotel. Visitors could stay in this unit for the weekend to test out the perks and adventures of living in a truly sustainable home powered by solar energy (a 10kWh MicroFIT project installed on the roof), with shower supplied with rain water, water-free composting toilet, natural ventilation system and a vegetable garden right at their footsteps, near the house.


Existing Garden

Right now the farm grows various organic vegetables for the local markets. Audrey grows organic garlic on one part of her garden lot and shares the rest of it with an enthusiastic couple from Way To Grow! Gardens – Jason and Tarsila – the real fans of food, nature and organic farming. They grow amazing produce and have a table at Anette Village Farmers’ Market in Toronto every Wednesday 3-7 pm. See the photos of this year’s crop below!


Seedlings in the greenhouse

Seedlings in the Greenhouse


 First Grapes


Audrey’s house, located on this farm, is also equipped with sustainable features: solar water heater and radiant floor technology. The Solar thermal water heater panel supplements the hot water tank that supplies the radiant flooring.

Interested to get the tour of the current green features of the farm, the market garden and to learn more about the future local green education centre?

Feel free to contact Audrey through  Audrey’s Local Living Centre page and follow this interesting project!


The Bill Fisch Forest Stewardship & Education Centre – Up close

On May 28th/2016, the 1st building in Ontario targeting a Full LBC Certification – the Bill Fisch Forest Stewardship and Education Centre – opened its doors to the public. This open house was part of the Spring Forest Festival, which is held annually in the York Regional Forest.


When we arrived at the festival, the first excursion through the Education Centre had just finished and the next one had to start in an hour. We decided to take a quick hike through the forest. It was hot and sunny. Fresh smell of pines, wild plants and flowers reminded us of how much me missed being in the woods. Here and there along the trail, we could see the signs with information on ecological benefits of forests and specific tree species. What a neat idea!


When we came back, the conference room of Education Centre was already full. Dennis, one of the engineers who has worked on this building from the very first initial stages of design through its construction and completion, shared with us interesting facts about the building’s features as well as challenges that the whole team faced during the process.


Project: The Bill Fisch Forest Stewardship and Education Centre

Target: Full LBC Certification, ‘net zero’ energy, LEED Platinum certification

Status: opened and occupied, LBC certification in progress

Building size: 4000 sq ft, single storey

Cost: $3.036 Million

Completed: 2015


Site Overview

The Bill Fisch Forest Stewardship Education Centre was planned and built as a teaching tool and a living laboratory, where visitors can learn about the importance of natural resources and forest ecosystems. The building is located in the Hollidge Tract, one of the twenty-three tracts that form the York Regional Forest – the first public forest in Canada to be certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).

The centre is part of 90-year effort by Regional Municipality of York to regenerate the forest that was lost in 1800s, which happened due to the need to make more room for farming. However, after significant soil erosion and demand from citizens to restore the forgotten forest, the regional municipality has launched a project on regenerating the degraded landscape. It has become one of the most successful projects of its kind in North America!

The new Education Centre replaced an old facility used by York Region Forestry staff since 1940s.


Design Process and Challenges

The centre was designed and built by DIALOG in collaboration with an architect Jeff Schnurr, Forestry Stewardship & Interpretation and Municipality of York Region. Unique interdisciplinary team included architects, engineers, interior designers as well as forest educational experts, arborists and ecologists.

The team started working on the initial design concept in 2012, the actual construction started in April of 2014 and was finished by December 2015. Three years of hard work included the endless process of researching, learning and applying the principles of Living Building Challenge to this new masterpiece.

According to Dennis, one the biggest challenges of the project was working with the ‘Red List’, trying to get particular information from suppliers about the materials’ ingredients and find alternatives to the materials/products that were not permitted under LBC guidelines. Another challenge included systems integration or bringing together all the component subsystems of the building and ensuring that they function together as intended.



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Main Entrance – Admin Reception (Canadian Wood Council)

As we entered the building, we noticed right away how much cooler and nicer it felt there comparing to the hot temperature outside. As we learnt later, the east-west building orientation along with a heat-recovery ventilator used in the building is what made it possible. In fact, the conference room is the only place in the whole building that is equipped with air conditioning. Natural ventilation methods such as large ceiling fans (that worked almost silently!) and operable windows used throughout the building also help to keep the indoor air pretty fresh.


Building Tour in Progress

The interiors fully reflect the building’s connected-to-nature concept. Large floor-to-ceiling and clerestory windows, glass partitions and series of interior louvered screens let lots of natural light into the space and create a visual connection between interior spaces and with outdoors. Main construction and interior material used here is wood and its strong but very pleasant smell fills the whole space, making you to think that you are still out there in the forest. A beautiful wood-burning masonry fireplace located in the heart of the building adds a warm cottage-like feel to the interior. Fueled by locally collected deadfall, it works as an additional source of heat in the wintertime. A built-in bench at the base of the fireplace provides extra seating for visitors during gatherings.


Lobby/Reception – Wood-burning Fireplace


Simple and thoughtfully designed layout makes it very easy to navigate through the space.The heart of the building is comprised of tree main spaces, used for meetings and educational programs: Lobby/Reception, Classroom and Multi-Purpose (conference) Room. There is also a small open office area (Hotelling Station) for facility’s staff located right behind reception. The building service areas are placed in its eastern part and connected to the main spaces with a long corridor stretching along the south side of the building.




Structural and Exterior Materials

The structure of the building was built almost entirely of black spruce glulam and FSC certified CLT (cross-laminated timber). Cross-laminated timber is an extremely durable material that gives more strength, more sound resistance and more fire resistance than a traditionally built wall.

Exterior is clad with stone masonry and reclaimed Douglas fir that was salvaged from a factory in Toronto and re-purposed by a local company. The finished boards were left untreated to weather naturally within their forest environment. On the North side of the building a part of exterior features educational wood panels made from 12 York Regional Forest wood species.


Exterior – Main Entrance


North Side Exterior – Educational Wood Panels


Interior Finishes

The main interior finish is the exposed surfaces of the CLT wall and roof panels. The CLT and glulam columns are coated with a zero-VOC stain. Maple-veneered FSC plywood is featured on several interior panels that are located in the administrative areas of reception and open office (Hotelling Station).

IMG_9242-CLT cropped

Cross Laminated Timber Wall



Maple-veneered FSC Plywood Panels & Glulam Column

The main entry reception desk is made of reclaimed ash salvaged from the area and stone veneer. Reclaimed ash works as an educational feature as it retains the tracks of the emerald ash borer insects that have devastated ash forests in Ontario (the ash was treated to prevent further infestation). The concrete floors feature a unique leaf pattern: leaves from local tree species were pressed into the wet concrete leaving beautiful imprints.


Reception Desk


Concrete Floors – Leaf Imprints


Building Orientation and Landscape

The east-west orientation of the centre was strategically chosen to make it more energy efficient. It allows the building envelope to capture free heat in winter and reject it in summer. Additionally, it enables the building to harvest more solar energy with photovoltaic power system installed on its roof.


When deciding on the building’s location, the design team had to evaluate the current landscape of the site and make some modifications accordingly: several of the trees located nearby had to be cut down as they were blocking the sun. However, no tree material was wasted. Logs from harvested trees were utilized in the building, while the base portions of their trunks were turned into beautiful totem-like wooden sculptures that tell the stories of forest wildlife with animals, birds, plants and insects carved on them. The vast open glade located on the south side of the building is currently covered with wild grass. According to Dennis, the York Region Forestry staff plans to populate it later with wild flower and stone gardens.


All the Water and Energy supplied to the building comes from nature. To learn on how it achieves ‘net-zero’ Water and ‘net-positive’ Energy performance, see the summary below.

The Education Centre’s Living features based on the LBC Petal System:


Built in the first public FSC forest in Canada, the Education Centre is uniquely rooted in place. Constructed of wood and accented with stone, it reflects the natural landscape that surrounds it. The building is designed to improve the wellbeing of the region and to be an integral part of the restored forest by supporting and nurturing its ecosystems.


Designed to have ‘net-zero’ water performance, the centre is fully responsible for generating its potable and non-potable water needs and treating all discharge waste. All the water supplied to the building comes from nature. Rainwater collected from the roof and then stored in the cistern provides water for toilets and urinals, and ground well located on site supplies water that undergoes UV filtration before it is used in sinks and showers. The water that leaves the building comes back to the nature as clean as it entered the building. Wastewater goes through a special treatment system based on aerobic and anaerobic bacteria and a bioswale to cleanse it of pollutants.


Designed to achieve ‘net positive’ energy performance, the Education Centre consumes less energy than it produces. Renewable energy is provided by solar panels installed on the roof. It is expected that the building will have an annual net positive energy balance of 8mWh. The Photovoltaic Power system used at the centre is grid-connected, which means that it is connected to the utility grid and any excess electricity produced is fed back into the grid. When there is not enough of solar resource, the building can use electricity from the grid, which eliminates the need to have battery storage on site. This outstanding Energy efficiency of the building was also made possible with the help of the following strategies:

  •  East-west orientation of the building, south-facing glazing and large overhangs that allow capturing maximum of solar heat in winter and rejecting it in summer.
  • The use of high-performance building envelop to reduce heating and cooling loads: insulated walls (R40) and roof (R60) combined with triple pane, argon-filled window glazing
  • Windows are positioned to maximize natural lighting
  • Energy reduction techniques that includes continuous dimming of lighting systems in suitable areas, heat recovery ventilation, LED lighting, and low-energy-use electrical equipment


The building is free of the ‘Red List’ materials. All materials used in construction and interior finishing hold sustainable nature and are safe for the occupants’ health. All materials come from within a 500km radius of the site. The main materials used in the building, the CLT and glulam, are fully renewable and their production creates only a fraction of the carbon required to produce more commonly used construction materials such as steel or concrete. Also, laminated timber can be used for long spans and heavier loads, which reduces the amount of raw material required by the project.


The building provides delight and wonder inside and out. Its clean-lined architecture with interiors full of fresh air, light and thoughtfully designed details sends anyone who visits it into an inspired mode and makes them feel like they are more connected to the natural world. (At least we felt exactly like that when we were inside and nearby the building!)


Designed and built to provide the best possible environment for its visitors, the centre truly stands by its promises. Everything starting from design layout of the space to its indoor air and water quality standards to cleanest materials used in the interior and exterior of the building ensures a wellbeing and happiness of its occupants as well as improved ecology of the forest that surrounds it.


The centre is planned to be accessible in every way. It is designed to foster a sense of community that is equitable regardless of an individuals’ physical abilities, background, age, class, race, gender or sexual orientation. The building is adjacent to one of the first nature trail loops constructed to meet the Built Environment Standard of Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005.



The Bill Fisch Forest Stewardship & Education Centre is an extremely ambitious example of sustainable design that aims to prove that Living Buildings can be a realistic future for Ontario. Visiting this building was a truly inspiring experience.

The project pushes the conventional boundaries of architecture by making us to think of how to look at the buildings in a context of nature – to understand the buildings as an integral part of larger local and regional ecosystems.

It is important to note that, the project, including the site, is projected to be not only carbon-neutral, but will be in fact carbon negative: over the next year along it will sequester more CO2 than required to build it!


Sources used: Site visit & Live interviews, DIALOGCanadian Wood Council

The Greenest Building in Ontario – Open House, May 28|2016

“This building is part of the forest ecosystem: so it’s not a building in a forest, it’s not a forest around the building – it’s Part of the Forest”.

Ian Buchanan ( Manager of Natural Heritage & Forestry Services| Environmental Services Department, Regional Municipality of York)


Bill Fisch Forest Stewardship & Education Centre, Fall 2015

This year’s Spring Forest Festival, organized annually by Regional Municipality of York , will be quite exciting for everyone who is passionate about Living Buildings.

It will showcase a new state-of-the-art eco building – The Bill Fisch Stewardship and Education Centre. Designed by DIALOG, this York Region’s greenest building has already won the Environmental Building Wood Design Award from Wood WORKS! and is targeting the Living Building Challenge (LBC) Full Certification, LEED Platinum Certification and Net Zero Energy Certification.

The Education Centre was designed to be an integral part of the forest ecosystem and, unlike other buildings, it enhances nature instead of harming it. It captures rainwater, creates its own electricity and was constructed from locally sourced and repurposed materials.

It will open its doors for visitors for the whole festival day on Saturday, May 28th from 10 am to 3 pm. There will be an engineer on site to answer any questions. For those interested to learn more about the building’s awe-inspiring architecture and design, the organizers will be giving a talk at 11:30 am and 1:30 pm.

Come to see in person this beautiful building that aims to become the 1st Fully Certified Living Building in Ontario!

Date and Time: Saturday, May 28th, 2016| 10 am to 3 pm

Location: Hollidge Tract, 16389 Hwy 48, Town of Whitchurch-Stouffville

Admission is FREE! Save the Date!

For details on other fun activities at the upcoming Spring Forest Festival, including guided walks through the forest, please visit York Region website

Toronto Collaborative at the EcoFair 2015


For the third year in a row, the Toronto Collaborative participated in the EcoFair at Wychwood Barns. The event took place on November 8th, from 12pm to 4pm at the beautiful community cultural hub – Artscape Wychwood Barns.

Sunny weather and warm informal ambience of the Barns created a perfect backdrop for this kind of event: you could feel the positive vibes of the lively conversations between people as soon as you would enter the long street-like hall. The fair in general filled Barn #2 represented by city departments such as Live Green Toronto and Cycle Toronto to local ecologically driven design firms and architects, to sustainable product vendors.

It was a busy afternoon for the Toronto Collaborative as well. Building tours led by our green building experts Charles Marshall, Mariko Uda and Eric Charron brought the public new insight into the ecological and environmental strategies built into the Wychwood Barns. The tours sparked active discussions and interest from those, which took part.

We also had a display table with information about the Challenge and Sustainable Architecture along with petal-shaped seed cards for sale. New members got introduced to the group and our email sign-up list gained more contacts as well: the LBC Toronto community is growing!

The plantable LBC seed cards is something new we came up with this year. Hand crafted from recycled paper with herb seeds embedded in them, they represent a sustainable concept of the Challenge – to create something new by saving and reusing what we have, with the final product that gives back to the environment and enhances the health and happiness of its users.

Plant them in soil (outdoors or indoors in a pot on your window-sill) and they will grow into little gardens of yummy herbs! They are also fun to use as Christmas gift tags: just write a name of a recipient on one and attach it to the gift.

The seed cards helped us to collect plenty of donations, which we plan to contribute towards our next event. Some of the seeds were generously donated by  Toronto Seed Library and others were purchased from Urban Harvest; both are the local providers of high quality Organic seeds.

Thank you everyone who stopped by and supported the Toronto Collaborative, either through donation or an inspiring conversation.

It was another great EcoFair and we hope to see you at the next one!


Here are some photos of the event:

IMG_3359Main entrance to Barn#2


IMG_3350-1Adding finishing touches to the display table. Our fall still life with a bouquet of leafy greens and vegetables, and a bright orange pumpkin (shown briefly on the left) earned many compliments to our table!


IMG_3348The LBC petal-shaped seed cards:

green – Kale & Parsley, pink – Basil & Dill


IMG_3352Mariko sharing with us some information about certified and registered LBC projects, located in Canada and worldwide (see the full international map here). Check out an article on the fascinating Endeavour House recently built in Peterborough, ON. It aims to get the LBC Full Living certification and, according to its builders, it ‘makes an income’!


IMG_3366Charles leading the first building tour. East side of the site, at the Stop Community Food Centre’s Green Barn.


IMG_3369West side of the site. Charles telling attendees about the geo-thermal field located under this park land; the Barns receive most of their heating and cooling from this geo-thermal system.


Green Neighbours 21, Transition Toronto and the Wychwood Barns Community Association did a great job organizing this year’s fair. They have kept their promise: the EcoFair 2015  was, indeed, larger than the previous one and gathered a more vibrant crowd of local groups, businesses and attendees.



LBC Toronto Collaborative at the 2015 EcoFair – Artscape Wychwood Barns, Nov.8!

The Toronto Collaborative is excited to announce that they will be participating in the seventh annual EcoFair. Join us for this fun, family oriented event!

This year’s EcoFair will take place on Sunday, November 8th, 12pm to 4pm at its longtime home – Artscape Wychwood Barns (601 Christie Street, 2 blocks south of St Clair Ave W).

Come find our table and learn more about the Living Building Challenge program and the Toronto Collaborative. Whether you are a professional who’d like to share with us Your vision for a Living Future and the role of Living Architecture or just a person who is very curious about nature, environment and the place of human race in it, we will be glad to meet you!

Also, some of our members will be giving the tours of the Barns,showcasing the many green features of this beautiful LEED Gold certified space – the old TTC streetcar barns that got transformed into a vibrant community hub.


Wychwood carbarns, 1924

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Artscape Wychwood Barns, 2014

This event has been organized by the local community-driven eco groups: Green Neighbours 21, Transition Toronto and the Wychwood Barns Community Association.

Last year, over 800 people came out to learn about green initiatives and achievements in the city, to explore new ideas, and to share green tips and tricks. This year, organizers promise the event to be even bigger and better than before!

Here are some highlights of the 2015 EcoFair:

  • 35+ businesses and non-profit organizations promoting eco-friendly programs, products and services (the LBC-Toronto is one of them!)
  • 2 FREE screenings of This Changes Everything (see trailer)
  • Electric car test drives
  • Informative workshops and presentations
  • Interactive activities for kids
  • Delicious food

Admission is FREE! Save the date!

For more details, please visit

2015’s First Exciting Announcement!!!

We hope this will be the first of many to come this year!

One of our Collaborative Members (Ethan Griesbach) will be presenting the Living Building Challenge at the Ontario Association of Landscape Architects 47th Annual General Meeting and Conference. Scheduled to take place from March 26th to 28th, at the Delta Guelph Hotel.

This years conference theme is “Landscape Architects: Leaders for a Healthy Planet”.

Ethan will be speaking on March 27th, from 4:00-6:00pm during the World Café Session.

A warm thank you goes out to Popovich Associates for the introduction to the conference organizers!

Hope to see some of you there!

Just a reminder, the Toronto Collaborative is always looking for opportunities to engage people, as we continue with our mission to build capacity on the Living Building Challenge.  Please feel free to contact us with any suggestions or opportunities!

Toronto Collaborative at 2014 EcoFair!

For the second year in a row, the Toronto Collaborative participated in the EcoFair @ Wychwood Barns ( The event was held on November 23, from 12pm-4pm at the beautiful Artscape Wychwood Barns.

The Collaborative had a display table showing information about the Challenge, some delicious “petal” shaped cookies for sale (and that were trending on Twitter!), and green building tours were led by our very own Charles Marshall highlighting the many green features of the Barns.

It was a great afternoon spent, with new members being introduced to the group, and many insightful and fascinating discussions about restorative buildings with attendees.

See below for some photos of the event!


Despite a rainy day, there was a great turn out at the Barns!

IMG_3884Petal-shaped cookies were a real hit, providing us with plenty of donations to contribute to our next event.


A great turn out from the TO Collaborative!

IMG_3901Our own Charles Marshall leading green building tours of the Wychwood Barns.


Delicious and local food was provided by Toronto’s Localista Food Truck.

2014 EcoFair is this Weekend!

Just a few days away from the 2014 EcoFair @ Wychwood Barns (  The 2014 EcoFair will take place on November 23, 12pm-4pm at Artscape Wychwood Barns (601 Christie Street, 2 blocks south of St Clair Ave W).

The Collaborative will have a display table, with information about the Challenge and maybe a few surprises!

Also, Collaborative members will be providing tours of the Wychwood Barns; which will highlight the many green initiatives of the Barns.

Admission is free! Anticipated 40+ eco friendly displays, interactive activities and amazing food from Toronto’s eco friendly food truck, Localista

We hope to see you there!

Toronto Collaborative at the 2014 ECOFAIR – Wychwood Barns!

The Toronto Collaborative is pleased to announce, that for the second year in row, they will be participating in the EcoFair @ Wychwood Barns (  The 2014 EcoFair will take place on November 23, 12pm-4pm at Artscape Wychwood Barns (601 Christie Street, 2 blocks south of St Clair Ave W).

The Collaborative will have a display table, with information about the Challenge and maybe a few surprises!

Also, Collaborative members will be providing tours of the Wychwood Barns; which will highlight the many green initiatives of the Barns.

Admission is free! Anticipated 40+ eco friendly displays, interactive activities and amazing food from Toronto’s eco friendly food truck, Localista.

About the Barns:



Artscape Wychwood Barns is a community cultural hub where a dynamic mix of arts, culture, food security, urban agriculture, environmental and other community activities and initiatives come together to provide a new lease on life for a century-old former streetcar repair facility.

This multi-faceted complex houses artist live/work spaces, programming and administrative facilities for not-for-profit organizations, indoor and outdoor growing areas, a community-run gallery and a 7,680 square foot “Covered Street” used for farmers and art markets, conferences and events. Unlike a traditional community centre, the Artscape Wychwood Barns operate on a self-sustaining model, without requiring ongoing operating subsidy after the initial capital investment. Tenants of Artscape Wychwood Barns pay affordable rents and contribute to the programming of the building and site.

Artscape Wychwood Barns are LEED Gold certified and fully accessible by Ontario standards.