Kenora Fire and Emergency Services Centre

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Taken in part from the March 20, 2010 article by Reg Clayton in “The Enterprise”

The City’s new $5.9 million Fire and Emergency Services Centre takes full advantage of location to incorporate energy efficient features from roof to foundation. The hilltop site and southern exposure enhances the building’s design features to make the most of natural heating and lighting provided by the sun.

“There’s great solar access. It’s a great site for that application as there are no trees, buildings or hills blocking the sun,” commented project architect David Nelson, of Nelson Architecture Inc. in Kenora.

During the winter months as the sun travels low across the southern sky, direct sunlight illuminates the building’s interior as well as provides passive solar heating. In the summer, large overhangs on the roof are designed so the south facing windows are fully shaded to prevent the building from becoming uncomfortably warm inside.

The west side of the building’s second story contains the training area where two skylights provide natural illumination in addition to the energy efficient florescent T-5 lighting fixtures. Motion sensors throughout the interior offices, staff areas, change room and kitchen save on electricity.

The building’s primary heating and cooling system is provided by a gas-fired boiler to circulate warm water through a coil system of uses embedded in the billing’s concrete floors and walls. However, the system is supplemented by utilizing the natural properties of the sun to warm the water thereby reducing energy costs to heat the building. The system is a particularly effective method of climate control for the firehall’s spacious 6,000 sq. ft, four-bay equipment area where vehicles and apparatus—including the fire department’s new 55 foot long ladder truck—will be stored.

“It’s very efficient and cost effective particularly in high spaces like the garage,” Nelson noted, as heat rising from the floor and emanating from the walls provides an ambient level of warmth compared to conventional methods such as suspending heaters from the ceiling.

The building’s ventilation system not only removes vehicle exhaust fumes from the apparatus bays but also extracts heat to warm the interior.

Prefabricated concrete panels used on the building’s exterior and some interior walls include a layer of insulation sandwiched in the middle. The building is constructed on bedrock with a layer of compacted gravel providing additional insulation between the foundation and the borrow of the foam insulted concrete floor. Nelson noted six inches of compacted gravel provides an R value equal to one-and-a-half inches of foam insulation.

One innovative design feature is the roof which slopes from front and back towards the centre to collect rain and snow melt. The water is stored in a 10,000 galloon cistern on site, separate from the domestic water system, for a variety of uses such as fire suppression, washing vehicles and irrigation.

“There’s a lot of uses for untreated, unprocessed water,” Fire Chief Warren Brinkman said, citing cost savings achieved by using the water for such purposes instead of metered city water.

The laminated beams and joists supporting the roof convey an appealing visual aspect to the firehall’s architectural design at about the same cost as convention steel. “It reflects the forestry heritage of the Kenora area and is a statement to our history,” Chief Brinkman observed.

“The big challenge for us is how do we build something nice that is still economical using straight forward materials yet come up with a building that is compelling architecturally,” Nelson said, referring to the example of the old red brick Fire Station #1 and municipal heritage building that the new firehall replaces. “We felt the new firehall needed to have some presence and not just be a storage facility or garage.”

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