"Leeding" the way

Lisa SandhamBayview Magazine Fall 2009

Today the word "green" encompasses much more than the colour it represents. Green has become the chosen colour of environmentalism, synonymous for its connection with nature, health, and growth. This global movement advocates healthy environments and the need to protect and manage our natural resources and ecosystems. The most negative effects on the environment come from new builds which consumes land, compromises wildlife habitat and exacerbates soil erosion. According to the Canada Green Building Council [CaGBC], buildings use nearly one-third of our total energy, two-thirds or our electricity and one-eighth of our water. Building has a huge impact on our environment; therefore, it is imperative that we design our buildings in a way that minimizes these negative effects.

In 2003 the Canada Green Building Council (CaGBC) was created to further the expansion of green building practices in Canada and to promote the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) Green Building Rating System. LEED® recognizes the five key areas of human and environmental health: sustainable site development, water efficiency, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality. The program provides verification through extensive study and documentation that a building has met its target in sustainable building.

Levels of certification include: Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum. Architects, engineers and interior designers are rigorously tested on their knowledge and understanding of green building practices and principles through examination. More than 6,000 professionals across Canada are now LEED® Accredited Professionals [LEED® AP], including a handful of local architects and engineers who are setting the green standard for today and laying the foundations for our future generations.

This year Thunder Bay will see the completion of its first anticipated LEED® Gold building in Thunder Bay. Designed by a local architectural firm, FORM Architecture Engineering the new Sister Margaret Smith Centre was planned and constructed to meet the requirements of the LEED® rating system for New Construction (LEED® NC).

Over the last 20 years this local firm has focused on incorporating the best known sustainable building practices into their designs and educating their clients on the advantages of green building. St. Joseph’s Care Group understood the importance of demonstrating a sound corporate citizenship that not only considered environmental impacts but the health of their patients and staff.

For Tracy Buckler, President and Chief Executive Officer of St. Joseph’s Care Group, there was no question that going green was simply the right thing to do. “LEED® Gold Certification demonstrates St. Joseph’s Care Group’s commitment to being effective stewards of many precious resources: the clients we serve, our employees, and the city in which we live. First and foremost, the Sister Margaret Smith Centre is a place of healing for the clients served. Since holistic care involves the body, mind and spirit, encompassing environmental considerations into our planning for the new building were imperative to ensuring the most therapeutic healing for our clients.”

The 51,400 square foot addictions services facility contains both inpatient and outpatient components. Among a few of the “green” features that were incorporated into the design include: thermally efficient walls, roofs and windows; specifying the use of interior finishes and materials that have lower toxic emissions for better indoor air quality; plants and landscaping that requires little or no irrigation; maximum use of recycled content in construction materials; reduction of construction waste by diverting more than 50% of all construction waste material from the landfill; and access to car pool priority parking.

Thunder Bay is well on its way to becoming a future LEED® -er in “green” building in Northwestern Ontario and beyond. One locally inspired development is setting the bar high. Lake Superior Discovery Place is a not-for-profit grass roots community based coalition of members and supporters who are interested in the future of Thunder Bay’s waterfront.

The inspiration for this project stemmed from the work of local architect Cory Stechyshyn. As part of his architectural thesis, he developed an idea to bring life to the former Pool 6 elevator site on Thunder Bay’s waterfront. Passionate about Thunder Bay’s waterfront, this visionary states, “Lake Superior Place will demonstrate environmental consciousness and sustainability while allowing the community to grow and prosper in a way that supports a rich diversity of cultural, social and economic activity.”

LSP will set an example for sustainable large scale public projects targeting the highest LEED® standard, LEED® Platinum certification. The group is also reviewing initiatives from the Living Building Challenge, which pushes the current levels of measure of sustainability making for the “greenest buildings in the world”. LSP will be a world-class demonstration project that will also serve to educate and inspire other communities to follow.

Sustainable building in Thunder Bay does not come without its challenges, but with local professionals developing unique solutions it gives us an opportunity to set an example to other northern communities that “green” building is feasible. Every action we take, no matter how small, creates positive changes that we all can be proud of.

For more information on 'green building', visit the following websites:


Lisa Sandham is an interior designer, home designer and freelance writer who lives and works in Thunder Bay.