Windermere Fire Station 31

gh3* (lead design architect) with S2 Architecture (prime consultant)


As civic buildings, fire stations find themselves in the unusual role of being highly functional, technical buildings embedded in residential communities. The vision for Windermere Fire Station takes cues from the past: the iconic characteristics of a pitched roof, large fire truck doors, and solid load-bearing walls. But the contemporary fire station also carries a new imperative for sustainable citizenship that has implications for the building’s form, orientation and image.

Street Front

Fire Station 31 will serve a new community in Southwest Edmonton, bordered by the North Saskatchewan River and the Whitemud Creek Ravine. The community of Windermere aims to exemplify the careful integration of the natural and built environments. The City of Edmonton has taken a leadership role by requiring the fire station to obtain LEED Silver certification, meet 40 percent better energy efficiency and 40 percent better greenhouse gas emissions than NECB 2011, and achieve 80 kilowatt-hours per square metre per year for heating needs. In addition, the project is also a pilot to investigate if achieving net-zero energy on an emergency response fire hall is feasible. The study will consider viability by looking at energy use, operational needs and budget considerations.

To achieve net-zero, the south-facing roof is clad with photovoltaic cells. The roof is optimized for solar generation capacity, generating the shape of the building. While the roof plane is lifted to provide a substrate for solar arrays, the ground plane is pushed down to collect and cleanse water in a front yard bioswale. A concrete plinth in the centre of the bio-swale, accessed by a light metal bridge, provides a site for public art.

Other sustainability measures include geothermal heating and cooling, and maximizing natural lighting to reduce energy loads and improve the quality of the workplace. Strategically placed glazed walls between the garage and domestic quarters are key to optimizing daylight and ventilation, as well as providing visual connections important for orientation, safety, and facilitating quick response times.


Clad in dark ironspot brick, Fire Station 31’s sombre tones will give it a visual strength when seen silhouetted against the prairie sky. The simple profile and the mass of masonry wall emblematically marry references to the residential and to the disciplined functionality of the fire station. The use of two brick bond types adds subtle character to the facade’s surface. Edmonton’s extended daylight hours in summer and minimized daylight hours in winter will be gauged by the glazing of the apparatus bay doors, as they transition from slightly reflective elements during the day to glowing apertures at night.

Roof Panels

The design creates an expressive, engaging structure that heightens civic pride, incorporating green technical advances and a move towards more transparent buildings. It aims to be a high-functioning workplace in times of emergency, and a welcoming community beacon in quiet times.


Jury Comments

Ted Watson :: The shape is simply derived in a single gesture that creates the height and the hierarchy within the program, and also yields a comfortably familiar but unique shape. It’s rational in responding to daylight while also having a sustainability agenda.

David Penner :: I like the elegance and simplicity of the planning and massing. The site is well executed, with bioswales and a sculpture court that addresses the requirement for public art in a proactive way, rather than leaving it to chance.

Monica Adair :: A lot of environmental solutions feel like add-ons that are disconnected from the architecture. Here, the solar panels and form are seamlessly integrated, signalling that the sustainability agenda matters as much as the program inside. The design elevates the bar for community-scaled fire stations, with a materiality and a commitment to detailing that will make it an object of civic pride.

Download Project PDF


CLIENT:: City of Edmonton
MECHANICAL:: Smith + Andersen
CIVIL:: Urban Systems
LANDSCAPE:: Urban Systems, gh3*
GEOTHERMAL:: Revolve Engineering
LEED:: Eco Ammo
AREA:: 1,425 m2
BUDGET:: $10.5 M
STATUS:: 100% Design Development

View within Canadian Architect magazine’s December 2018 Awards Issue: