Canada’s first net-zero fire station features sweeping PV array
Windermere Fire Station No. 31 is located in southwest Edmonton in a rapidly expanding neighbourhood. The project is the City of Edmonton’s first net-zero building, achieved through a comprehensive passive design approach and a combination of solar arrays, geothermal heating and cooling.
he 1,520 sq.m facility has bays for three fire engines as well as offices, sleeping quarters and dining areas for a crew of up to 12 firefighters. The post-disaster, non-combustible, sprinklered building will also act as a community centre in the event of an emergency. To underpin this role, it also has a dedicated room to support the many community drives in which the department is involved.
As civic buildings, fire stations are highly functional and technical facilities, usually embedded in residential communities for citizen safety. At once practical and symbolic, contemporary fire stations serve a critical public service while conveying important civic values within a neighbourhood.
The design challenge was to create an expressive and engaging structure that would encourage community pride and incorporate technical advances in environmental performance.
The City of Edmonton requested a highly sustainable project that would generate on-site renewable energy equal to 100% of the total building energy demand. The facility must also have an energy performance that is 40% more efficient than NECB 2011, yield 40% less green house gas emissions than the baseline using NECB 2011, and operate at no more than 80 kilowatt-hours per square metre per year for heating needs.
The project site was unbuilt and unremarkable – essentially a blank slate. The station’s form was derived from a desire to underscore both the iconic image of a fire station as a community anchor, and a contemporary imperative for sustainable citizenship. A typical fire station might have been characterized by familiar signatures such as a pitched roof, large fire truck doors, a hose and bell tower, and solid and heavy load-bearing walls.
Windermere adheres to those principles, however, it re-imagines the hose and bell tower form – now redundant elements – with a gently curving, south-facing roof, outfitted with an extensive array of photovoltaic panels.
Other strategies to increase environmental performance include the building’s southern orientation which reduces energy demand by improving the quality of light received in the workplace. A geothermal heating and cooling system is also incorporated. The building is extremely well-insulated and includes high-performance windows and exterior doors.
Edited by SABMag editor Jim Taggart from material created by the project team.
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