The recent article “RDN to create designs for fire halls” raises some important concerns not apparent at first glance. The motivation of the RDN is one of saving money through standardization of fire hall designs of the future.
I question whether economy should serve as the guiding principle in planning our fire halls. All fire halls are built to meet a set of parameters, a budget and local community needs. At the same time fire halls have almost always been built with an individual character and appearance that reinforces their special place in the fabric of a community.
Fire halls, city halls, churches, schools, museums and galleries have historically been a town or city’s most important and expressive pieces of civic architecture. A standardized approach to fire hall design flies in the face of this tradition. Opportunities for local community engagement and a sense of local ownership and pride in a facility that reflects the values of a town or region are lost with this course.
The RDN’s interest in employing steel construction also reflects a lamentable and environmentally unconscionable approach. Steel plays an important role in building construction and in some cases is the only way to go. Unlike wood, steel is neither renewable nor a particularly sustainable material. B.C. is at the forefront of a current revolution in wood construction technology. We have provincial programs in place promoting the sustainable use of wood products in construction, and the RDN is in the middle of a region that should be utilizing and celebrating wood components in all of it’s public buildings to the highest degree possible.
I suggest that in this instance the RDN should heed the words of Goethe: “Things that matter most must never be at the mercy of things that matter least.”