645 GJ/year of natural gas use eliminated.


33 tonnes/year of GHG emissions eliminated.


91% waste diversion rate during demolition.


40% decrease in water use for non-fire-training operations. 


When the City of Vancouver’s Fire Hall #17 reached the end of its life and needed rebuilding, it became the prototype for City Council’s 2016 decision that all new city-owned building projects should be certified to Passive House or another zero-emission standard. As a busy station housing firefighter dormitory and serving as a communication hub with energy-consuming equipment, the hall needed to be highly functional. The city also wanted it to set an example and spur positive change in the green building industry.  

The challenge  

The goal was simple but challenging: to design and build a fire hall that would act as a demonstration project for sustainable and Passive House construction, encouraging more Vancouver buildings to reduce their carbon footprint. During the design process the city decided to exceed Passive House standards, aiming for the building to be net-zero and to eliminate its GHG emissions entirely.  


The fire hall was designed to meet several energy targets, including Passive House, LEED v4 Gold, CaGBC’s Zero Carbon Buildings Standard and site net zero energy with exclusions for some process loads. To achieve this, multiple energy-saving features were integrated into the design, including:  

  • High-performance envelope and heat recovery.  
  • A ground-source heat pump for heating and cooling.  
  • On-site solar energy generation.  

The project also incorporated other sustainable building features such as using recycled materials, diverting waste from landfills and reducing water usage with high-efficiency fittings and waterwise landscaping. They also reused the brass fire poles salvaged from the previous building.  


One challenge was the need to have two different temperature zones: apparatus bays at 10°C and the rest of the building at 20°C. During testing, significant leakage between the zones was discovered due to electrical services penetrating the barrier. Extensive sealing solved the problem, but for future projects with similar requirements, the team recommends minimizing the need for the zone boundary to be crossed.  


The new fire hall which is more than three times the size of the building it replaced eliminated fossil fuel use and GHG emissions, which were previously at 645 GJ/year of natural gas and about 33 tonnes per year respectively. This includes using some electricity from BC Hydro, which relies primarily on low-emission hydroelectric power generation. The project achieved a 91 percent waste diversion rate during the demolition and a 40 percent decrease in water use for non-fire-training operations.  


Vancouver’s new Fire Hall #17 demonstrates leadership in green construction, encouraging positive changes and serving as a model for future City projects aiming for net zero. It acts as a pilot project for potential changes to the local building by-law and provides local design teams and contractors with Passive House experience they can apply to future projects. It has also encouraged local manufacturers produce higher-performance Passive House-ready items such as windows, doors, heat recovery ventilators, insulation and air sealing products.   

The facility, built to a post-disaster seismic standard, better supports the community in emergencies and includes resiliency measures like an emergency generator, full building cooling, and a filtration system to maintain clean indoor air during wildfire smoke events.  

Lessons learned  

While the Passive House industry in Canada is developing, the project team sometimes struggled to purchase certified components like fire-rated doors. In future planning for Passive House projects, they plan to follow up with manufacturers to ensure non-certified components meet requirements.  

Want to explore all GMF-funded projects? Check out the Projects Database for a complete overview of funded projects and get inspired by municipalities of all sizes, across Canada. 

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