Orillia Spotlight


Lakehead University’s commitment to sustainable building began with its Orillia campus. Designed to be built at the highest of environmental standards, it was the first university campus in Canada to achieve LEED Platinum status. Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, claims to be the highest green building rating system in the world, with platinum being their highest designation. According to the Canada Green Building Council, “Buildings generate up to 35 percent of all greenhouse gases, 35 percent of landfill waste comes from construction and demolition activities, and up to 70 percent of municipal water is consumed in and around buildings.” Given that the Orillia campus is home to sustainability-focused academic programming, including the Sustainability Science Department, the Certificate in Environmental Sustainability, and the Ontario Master Naturalist program, the commitment to LEED Platinum aligns operational and academic standards of sustainability.

The Phase One Academic Building was the first step in establishing the new LEED® Platinum Lakehead University campus in Orillia, Ontario. The design of the building is guided by three fundamental principles: 1) integrating architecture and landscape to create a welcoming, student-centred environment, 2) developing an elegant, contemporary design that sets a viable precedent and context for future campus buildings, and 3) achieving LEED® Platinum certification while respecting the project schedule and budget.

Exterior of Academic Building

The following information is from Moriyama & Teshima Architects. 


A vertical ground loop system extracts heating and cooling from the earth by way of central heat pumps. These pumps then boost the temperature of the ground to a useful temperature for heating and cooling. As the ground maintains a steady and mild temperature, the efficiency of the heat pumps improves. This system helps the academic building to be 50% more energy efficient than a typical building of this type and size.

117 boreholes were drilled 330 ft down to create the geothermal system Photo credit: Moriyama & Teshima Architects

117 boreholes were drilled 330 ft down to create the geothermal system Photo credit: Moriyama & Teshima Architects 

Materials and Resources

More than 56% of the construction materials in the building were extracted and manufactured regionally, thus strengthening the University’s link to the community and minimizing the project’s carbon footprint.

Feature Stone

The feature stone wall consists of Algonquin and Eramosa limestone, locally quarried and manufactured. The stone adds a layer of scale, rhythm, and texture to the overall building design, emphasizing unique elements of the Canadian landscape.

Feature stone wall on Orillia Academic Building

Photo credit: Moriyama & Teshima Architects 

Light & Air

Natural light, excellent air quality, and connection to the outdoors were prioritized to enhance user experience and sustainability. Tall windows allow natural light into the academic building’s rooms, while remaining within the 30% building envelope opening limit to help control energy demands. Motorized blinds, occupancy sensors, and dimming controls have been installed, as well as controls for air-flow, temperature, and lighting, which allow user control over the environment, thereby improving user satisfaction and productivity.

Interior of Academic Building with lots of light

Site Ecology

Native plantings have been used where possible. Adaptive and drought-tolerant species have been selected to minimize the need for supplemental watering.

Life Cycle Considerations

The academic building is designed for a ‘long life’ and is adaptable to current and future needs through a simple structural grid, ‘loose-fit’ ceiling spaces, clear organization of spaces and circulation, and interior partitions that are easy to change with no major services within walls. Materials and systems were chosen and detailed with a focus on low maintenance.

Dual Duct Dedicated Outdoor Air VAV System

This system utilizes two parallel air distribution systems: one for delivering ventilation air only, and one for cooling on an as-needed basis. This allows for greater effectiveness and lowers the required quantities of ventilation air while maintaining high air quality. The second system provides space cooling only when needed, allowing for the quality and energy saving benefits of a traditional dedicated outdoor air system with central equipment for easy maintenance.

Green Roof

50 percent of the roofing was incorporated to control stormwater runoff, reduce heat island effect, and reduce building cooling loads.

Green roof implementation on Academic BuildingPlant life on Academic Building green roof

Photo credit: Moriyama & Teshima Architects 


Bioswales are landscape elements designed to remove silt and pollution from surface runoff water. They consist of a swaled drainage course with gently sloped sides and filled with vegetation. The water's flow path, along with the wide and shallow ditch, is designed to maximize the time water spends in the swale, which aids the trapping of pollutants and silt. Biological factors also contribute to the breakdown of certain pollutants. A common application is in parking lots, where substantial automotive pollution is collected by the paving and then flushed by rain. The bioswale treats the runoff before releasing it to the watershed or storm sewer. 

Bioswale in parking lot

Photo credit: Moriyama & Teshima Architects