Hamilton Fire Hall

Design incorporates building and site in quest for LEED Gold

The east elevation. Sustainable design features are incorporated with the program needs of the fire hall and its training facilities.
by Kimberley Johnston

Expanding the idea of protective services to embrace the protection of the environment, the Hamilton Fire Hall in Richmond BC, combines concepts of sustainable architecture with the specific programmatic needs of the Richmond Fire Department. A career fire hall staffed by full time fire fighters, it is located in a rapidly growing neighbourhood adjacent to McLean Park on the city’s eastern edge.
The building program consists of two large apparatus bays, a SCBA facility which repairs and maintains breathing apparatus for the entire Fire Department, workshop, gear storage room, training rooms, a 65ft. hose drying tower, crew quarters including separate facilities for male and female fire fighters, and a large meeting room that can be accessed by the public. In addition, there is a stand alone public washroom which serves the surrounding park, and a large fire fighter training yard at the rear of the site.
The sustainable features of the project begin with the approach to site development. Energy required for heating and cooling the building is provided by a geothermal loop buried beneath the training yard. Around the yard, the land is graded to form a bio-swale that collects the surface water from the adjacent hard surfaces and transfers it to the surrounding landscape. In addition to naturally irrigating existing trees and plants, the bio-swale has made it possible to restore the wet land on the southern corner of the site, and to eliminate the use of piped drainage throughout the entire site. In turn, this has reduced the load on the municipal storm system, which like the infrastructure of many cities across the country, is reaching its capacity.
The 65ft. hose tower, a traditional symbol of fire departments, is not only used to dry fire hoses but incorporates balcony elements that can be used for training purposes. This provides the fire fighters with local facilities, eliminating their travel to other halls for weekly training exercises. The tower also incorporates “Solar wall”, a proprietary system that heats outside air with the sun’s energy, accelerating the drying of the hoses by pumping warm air directly into the tower, and supplementing the mechanical heating system.
Green roofs cover a large portion of the sloped roof areas, helping to insulate the building and reduce the amount of rain water run off. Other areas of the roof have a low albedo finish, and are designed to collect rainwater and divert it into a large cistern which is then used as a water source for washing fire trucks and for other non-potable water uses within the building.
Mechanically the building combines the use of radiant heating and cooling with an air displacement system to provide improvements to the occupant comfort throughout the hall. The radiant floor system is used to heat the apparatus bays in preference to the standard overhead infra-red heaters, making this space more comfortable to work within and more energy efficient. The building also incorporates low flow fixtures including waterless urinals, solar water collectors, and a Direct Digital Control System to give occupants more control over their environment.
The structure is a hybrid of load bearing concrete masonry for the apparatus bays, and wood frame for the living quarters. Steel columns and beams are used where loading dictates. All the main areas have exposed glulam roof beams. Exterior cladding is a combination of brick masonry veneer and profiled metal.
The materials throughout the project were chosen especially for durability and for environmental sensitivity. Many were locally sourced. All windows throughout the project use Low E glass and have operable elements to allow occupants to access fresh air. Interior millwork and doors incorporate wheat board cores.
In a suburban municipality that has committed itself to the principles of sustainable development, the Hamilton Fire Hall, which received a $450,000 grant from the Green Municipal Fund for capital investment in sustainable initiatives, is another significant addition to a growing portfolio of environmentally responsible public projects.
This project is currently registered with CaGBC and is striving to achieve LEED gold certification.

Kimberley Johnston, of Johnston Davidson Architecture + Planning Inc., was the project architect on the Hamilton Fire Hall.



  • Architects: Johnston Davidson Architectural and Planning Inc., Vancouver
  • Structural Engineers: Herold Engineering, Nanaimo, BC
  • Mechanical Engineers: Cobalt Engineering, Vancouver
  • Electrical Engineers: Campbell Roy Ltd., West Vancouver
  • Civil Engineers: Earth Tech, Vancouver
  • Construction: Midan Construction Photos Bob Matheson Photographer, Vancouver
  • Landscape Architects: Sharp and Diamond Landscape Architecture Inc., Vancouver


  • Structure: In situ concrete floor slabs, loadbearing concrete masonry walls for apparatus bays
    Wood frame walls in living quarters, and wood I-joist floors with 100mm concrete topping, Western Archrib glulam roof beams and purlins with profiled metal roof deck.
  • Exterior: Brick masonry and profiled metal cladding, aluminum framed windows with low E double glazing, green and low albedo roof systems with Soprema roofing membrane and root barrier, rigid insulation 75mm, Solar Wall panels on hose tower.
  • Interior: Dinoflex rubber sports flooring using recycled rubber, Forbo linoleum [Marmoleum], wheat board cores in millwork and doors, radiant floor heating, dual flush toilets, waterless urinals and low-flow faucets and shower heads, motion sensors for lighting control.
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