Overview Building Features Grade JK-6 Grade 7-12


Unlike most commercial/institutional projects, where the landscape architect's involvement is mainly aesthetic and geared to satisfying municipal requirements as economically as possible, the work on the Dr. David Suzuki Public School was more about designing a sustainable environmental and adhering to the LEED requirements in a way that would be aesthetically pleasing and functional. 

Bezaire & AssociatesWorking with the Civil Engineer, Bezaire & Associates developed as series of bio swales to collect the storm water runoff of the parking lots and surrounding turf areas. Instead of sending the water directly to the storm system, it is collected in swales where much of it will go down into the soil and not even reach the storm system. The water that does make it to the storm system will be cleaner and will be delayed thus not tasking the system as much. 

Often bio swales are designed for pure function, resulting in what looks like a ditch running through the turf area. Realizing these ditches could be so much more and still be functional, the landscape architect started to play with their shape a little, planted the sides with native trees, shrubs and wildflowers, and incorporated some local boulders. Their goal was to make the swales look like natural ponds or streams.  It is their hope that in time, as these areas develop their own environments, they can be incorporated in the school curriculum and be used as outdoor learning environments.

For the typical foundation landscape, the firm wanted to blur the line between looking designed and natural. All of the plantings are native and a lot less ornamental. To literally blur the line the typical bed edging you would normally see was removed and this allows the foundation planting run out into the turf areas. 

The turf areas are broken into two distinct areas. The front of the school and around the bioswales is planted with a mix of grasses that is drought tolerant, needs little if any fertilizer or weed control once established and doesn't need to be mowed - although it can be if desired. The playground area behind the school is where the children will be playing and participating in sports activities. The turf needed to hold up to foot traffic but still required to meet the LEED guidelines. While researching various sports turf mixes, Bezaire & Associates came across one that will look and wear like traditional turf but all of the grass species in this mix are more drought tolerant than typical grass, holding to the LEED requirement of drought tolerant turf.

The biggest challenge for the firm, after 30 plus years of working with mainly ornamental plants, was working with an entirely new pallet of plants in areas of very specific requirements ie, the bio swales would at times be flooded and at other times be very dry. Care needed to be taken to locate the right plant in the right zone.

Most designed landscapes are very static. They are usually created with specific plants that remain in a specific space, separated from the turf with a rigid border and others plants that try to establish themselves are removed. This landscape will be very dynamic and always changing. As the landscape matures and specific micro environments are created, some of the plants initially planted will not persist in their designed location. They may seed or move to a new location or there may be others that move in to take their place. It is intended to let this natural progression take place. The landscape is seen this year will not be the same as the one that will be seen there in a few years and that will be different from the one that will develop in 10 years.

Download the Existing Tree Protection and Tree Plant Detail.

Greater Essex County District School Board