The Kilbarrack Fire Station Carbon Neutral Project began life not solely as a response to climate change and energy efficiency, but also as an exercise in social cohesion and community responsibility.
A plan was formulated to look at the station as a sustainable flagship within both the City Council and the local community; this became known as the Green Plan with a triple bottom line – economic, environmental and social. Funds were sought from the Dublin Fire Brigade budget to improve the energy efficiency and carbon footprint of the station which amounted to €100,000 for phase 1.
When the project started, most of the building´s infrastructure had not been improved since the construction of the building in the 1970s. The building consumed 706,133 kWh per year in gas and electricity and cost €44,000 to run, but it was not considered feasible to simply spend the €100,000 on improvements with no thought of payback, efficiency or emissions.
The project had to be a workable financial model that could be replicated in other fire stations around the country – and crucially, this is where the project has broken new ground within the public sector in Ireland. Any financial savings that are achieved through increased energy efficiency measures will be ‘ring fenced’ in a fund that can only be used for energy and environmental improvements in other fire stations, thus creating a chain reaction of energy efficiency projects.
Work commenced in May 2009 by improving the building envelope by cavity bead insulation and the construction of a passive standard gym, a 98% condensing boiler controlled by a sophisticated BMS, window upgrades, maximising passive gains and LED lighting with photo sensors further reduced electricity. Thermodynamic Solar Collectors were used for hot water and non gear vertical urban wind turbines aim to make the station energy independent and indeed, a net exporter, all improvements comply with ISO standards for future carbon trading. Bio fuels are made from onsite kitchen waste and rain water is harvested so that all local fires are extinguished using this source and showers and toilets use treated grey water.
The project has embraced sustainability by constructing wildlife habitats, kitchen gardens and a whole eco system for endangered local flora and fauna. The local community is enthusiastic – fire fighters bring local schools on guided tours, patients from the local hospice use the gardens and eco systems for recreation, universities study the results of the ground breaking technologies and it is the subject of several theses. Retired fire fighters tend the vegetables and bee hives.
The project will be replicated in two more fire stations using the same financial model, and has achieved international recognition in the Sustainable Energy Europe Awards.