Fire Station, Housing Colocation Project a First for Vancouver

The new Vancouver Fire Hall No. 5 is the first fire hall in the city collocated with housing.
Exterior of Vancouver Fire Hall

All photos by Andrew Latreille

YWCA Pacific Spirit Terrace and the new Vancouver Fire Hall No. 5 in Vancouver, British Columbia, completed in December 2019 with a budget of $16 million, is the first fire hall in Vancouver collocated with housing and sets a precedent for future public building projects.

Located in Vancouver’s Killarney neighborhood, Vancouver Fire Hall No. 5 has served the Champlain Heights and East Fraser Lands communities since 1952. As the building reached the end of its service life both programmatically and seismically, the replacement of the hall was overdue and provides the community with an innovative, colocation facility which is the first of its kind in Canada, ready to serve the needs of residents safely and effectively.

Vacounver fire station apparatus bay

Aiming for LEED Gold®, the new fire hall’s design not only combines key concepts of sustainable architecture with the specific programmatic needs of the Vancouver Fire & Rescue Services (VFRS), it also brings increased density to the area and creates effective use of City land through the addition of 4-stories of two and three-bedroom homes for women-led families.

The 21,000 sq. ft fire hall, which recently won a Gold award in the Firehouse Station Design Awards 2020 in the Shared Facilities category, includes three apparatus bays and supporting spaces such as Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) storage, a Hose Tower, offices, a lounge/day room, kitchen, dormitory, washroom facilities, fitness room, and a community room which doubles as a VFRS training room. This meeting space serves as an interface between VFRS and the community, allowing for potential booking opportunities for community groups and activities such as CPR and first aid courses, blood pressure clinics, and training for volunteer emergency groups.

The 36,000 sq. ft of housing within the project is in partnership with the YWCA and provides strategic key colocation opportunities with City civic buildings. There are 31 suites provided along with amenity rooms and communal rooftop outdoor spaces with urban agriculture opportunities, picnic tables and a play area that work in conjunction with a separate entrance, providing the housing occupants with their own identity and security.

Housing within the fire hall project

Architecturally combining two extremely different user groups on a small site and providing each of them with their own identity was one of the largest challenges that faced the design team. Issues around security, privacy, shared facilities, and combined services were some of the complications which were addressed during the design. Additionally, protective services facilities in Vancouver need to be designed to post-disaster standards, and as a result the entire building must be able to withstand seismic forces 1.5 times those required for a regular structure.

Sustainability was key in the conceptual stage of design and the project is aiming for a LEED® Gold rating with a strong focus on energy efficiency. Throughout the building, accessibility to natural lighting, exterior views and operable windows were key aspects in the design to improve livability for users and reduce energy demand. Additionally, the housing component of the building is constructed in light wood frame which adheres to the BC Wood First Act and is harvested locally from sustainably managed forests. Bright colours and natural lighting feature heavily throughout the building and are integrated to work to improve the wellbeing of fire crews.

Collocating the fire hall with housing on a small site already owned by the City offered exceptional value and kept the cost per square foot down in comparison to similar facilities in Vancouver. This successful combining of needs and increased value frees up and allows for improved allocation of citywide resources.

To read more about JDa’s fire hall projects, visit jdarch.ca/protective-emergency-services/

Conference room inside Vancouver fire station

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