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Fire hall sets green building standards in Whistler

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Developers aim for a silver LEED rating

The new Spring Creek Fire Hall is fanning the flames of Whistler’s sustainability initiatives.

The building, which broke ground this week, will be the first of its kind in Whistler, complete with a sod roof and solar chimney.

Once built, it will have a green building rating under the U.S. LEED system (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design).

"It was just consistent with where we were going," said Bill Barratt, general manager of community services at municipal hall, of the decision to green the new fire hall.

"It was an opportunity to move towards sustainable buildings through the LEED program."

LEED buildings are rated through a point scale for their green practices in design, construction and operation. Under the LEED system there are four levels of building certification: certified, silver, gold and platinum.

"We’re shooting for silver," said Graham Smith, development services manager with B.C. Building Corporation.

"Going for gold frankly just costs gold. You’d have to put in even fancier systems than we could afford."

The $1.56 million fire hall will replace the existing A-frame in Creekside.

"It’s going to be a nice facility compared to what they’re in now," said Fire Chief Bruce Hall.

"Right now the A-frame at Creekside doesn’t even have a sewer or water in it at all. It’s basically just a garage on a slab."

In the early developmental stages of the project, Whistler firefighters formed a fire hall committee, made up of both career and paid on-call firemen. That committee has been involved in the design and development of the new facility.

Smith says the Spring Creek Fire Hall will be a showcase building for the community, demonstrating Whistler’s commitment to going green.

"(Whistler) wants to have some actual proof on the ground that they are going green," he said.

"The advantage of having a green fire hall is that it is a relatively small project, it’s relatively inexpensive compared to a larger project and... you can have it done within a year."

The three-bay station will showcase a number of key environmental features. One major green detail, both physically and functionally, lies on top of the building itself in the form of a sod roof.

"What you’re essentially doing is you’re almost lifting the ground off the ground and putting it up in the air," said Smith.

Green rooftops are not new technology. Some European countries have been actively pursuing green roofs in recent years. For example, all new buildings in Switzerland must have green space on their rooftops equivalent to what was taken over by the building’s footprint.

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