Qualicum Beach Fire Hall Replacement Project
Town of Qualicum Beach cuts emissions & saves on energy bills by making energy efficiency one of the top priorities for their new fire hall replacement project.
Following through on commitments made in the OCP to support building more energy efficient municipal infrastructure, the Town of Qualicum Beach replaced the old Fire hall moving them closer towards meeting the Town’s energy goals.
Qualicum Beach’s 2011 Official Community Plan (OCP) includes a sustainability component that recognizes the importance of taking action to ensure a sustainable future for the community. The OCP’s sustainability component includes “visionary principles” that commit the municipality to building “progressive infrastructure” that is “efficient and effective at meeting the Town’s energy goals.”
In 2012, Qualicum Beach decided to replace its ageing fire hall. The fire hall project presented an opportunity for Qualicum Beach to follow through on its commitment to energy efficient municipal infrastructure. Early in the process, the town formed a broad-based working group of elected officials, staff and community members to advise on the design and construction of the fire hall. Working by consensus, the group made energy efficiency and service delivery key priorities. After hearing from the public at information sessions, the working group decided on a design that had a number of leading edge energy-efficiency features including:
- A highly innovative heat-exchange system that heats the building by drawing on heat from a nearby municipal well
- A “solarwall” to pre-heat air coming into the building’s ventilation system
- A “bioswale” to collect and filter runoff from non-porous surfaces
- Solar photovoltaic panels to provide about 27 kw of power for LED lighting, and
- Locally sourced building materials.
With these features incorporated into the design, project proponents anticipated dramatically reduced energy bills and maintenance costs, and the business case for the project became clear. Fire hall replacement costs were reduced even further when the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) awarded the project a grant and a low interest loan through its Green Municipalities Fund. FCM praised the project as a demonstration “to the community and the rest of Canada what innovative environmental – and especially energy-efficient – municipal building practices can achieve with thoughtful planning, careful budgeting, and a multi-disciplinary team.”
Energy Savings/GHG reductions
Estimates are that energy savings will average around 72% a year compared to a building of the same size constructed to standard requirements under BC’s Building Code. A large portion of the energy savings comes from the fire hall’s innovative heating system, which will use one tenth of the power that conventional heating systems would use in a comparable building.
“With these [energy efficiency] features incorporated into the design, project proponents anticipated dramatically reduced energy bills and maintenance costs, and the business case for the project became clear.”
The total cost for the project was $6.5 million, with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) contributing a $464,467 grant and a $4,644,672 low-interest loan through the Green Municipal Fund. The financial benefits of the new building’s energy savings represent energy savings of about 72% compared to a fire hall built to BC’s standard Building Code. It is estimated that the energy efficiency measures will amount to as much as $30,000 in savings annually. These outlays also contrast with the estimated costs required to bring the old fire hall -which was half the size of the new one – up to modern building code and seismic standards. Those expenses were estimated to be $40,000 for asbestos abatement and $800,000 for seismic upgrades.
Reduced operating, maintenance and personnel costs
The fire hall’s high quality building envelope and energy-efficiency features are anticipated to reduce ongoing costs by dramatically reducing energy bills and maintenance costs. Personnel costs will also be reduced through green building strategies that improve air quality and human comfort, thereby reducing sick time and other personnel expenses.
BC Wood First Policy
The building supports BC’s Wood First Policy by using wood in over 80% of the structure and revealing it as the final finish where possible. Some of the lumber used in the project is an innovative wood product called “Cross Laminated Timber Panels” which are created by laminating dimensional lumber into large wood panels.
Public awareness, perception of public safety, civic pride
The award-winning fire hall has bolstered community pride by enhancing the Town’s reputation as a leader in sustainability, showing how careful planning and a multi-disciplinary team effort can yield powerful results.
The location of the fire hall at the edge of town has meant less urban congestion when fire trucks are called to an emergency (the old fire hall was located at a busy central intersection that sometimes affected emergency response times).
Start early with a collaborative, multi-disciplinary approach
Project proponents realized early on that development of a complex and innovative building would require input from a range of elected officials, municipal staff and technical professionals. As well, achieving energy and financial efficiencies required some additional “upfront” investment, so it was important to get community support for the fire hall project’s sustainability goals. The early formation of an advisory committee made up of technical experts, community members and local government officials helped to build support for the project in the community from the outset, and to promote a shared understanding of the project’s aims.
Funding Opportunities improve business case
The total budget for the project was well over $6 million, and the town required a long-term loan to finance the project. The low-interest loan and energy efficiency grant from FCM’s Green Municipality Fund helped to ameliorate some of the community’s concerns and made it more clear that investing in an energy efficient fire hall made sound financial sense over the long term.
Clear and Consistent Communications Strategy
With a compelling business case and growing interest in sustainable development, many in the community supported the fire hall’s energy efficient upgrade. But some opposition remained. Using the business case and the Green Communities award as the basis for the project’s communications strategy helped to overcome some of the remaining opposition in the community.
Local government contact
Luke Sales, MCIP, RPP
Director of Planning at Town of Qualicum Beach