architecture climate change sustainability

How Britain’s fire service is reducing its environmental footprint

This is Bury Community Fire Station. It’s a new build which is sufficiently insulated that its gas bills are just 10% of the of the old fire station’s. There’s a solar PV array on the roof, and solar heating and hot water. There are two water harvesting systems, one on the roof and one in the training area, capturing water for flushing toilets and washing down vehicles.

New buildings to high environmental standards are one way that the fire service is taking action on climate change (see Wigan for another example). It’s part of a much wider and ongoing programme.

Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service is a leader in the sector. It has already reduced its emissions by 40%, and is aiming for a net positive carbon footprint by 2050. There are zero waste, zero wasted water and zero pollution goals for 2050. It has fitted solar panels on 22 sites, with more to come. Bike storage has been added to encourage more cycling, and a fruit tree planting project offsets emissions while benefiting the local community.

The vehicles are more of a challenge. Fire safety officials use electric cars, and some services are using smaller fire engines to attend to smaller incidents. Newer fire engines also have polymer bodies rather than steel, which makes them 75% lighter and therefore more fuel efficient.

It’s often observed that the military is the department of US government that takes climate change most seriously, and that’s because the military know that climate change will directly affect their operations. The fire service is similar. Climate change increases the risk of wild fires, and more extreme weather means more flooding. The fire service is at the front lines of climate change.

The fire service does a lot of community outreach. I hope that when the fire stations are open to the public or hosting schools visits, they’ll be able to highlight the sustainability measures they’re taking. They may turn out to be relateable and trusted advocates on climate change.

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