Community Should Promote Oberlin’s Green Fire Station

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 Founded in 1853, Oberlin’s Fire Station has a long history of assisting its residents in times of need. However, many are unaware that the Oberlin Fire Department is dedicated to the Oberlin community in ways beyond protecting its citizens from fire and accidents. As the City of Oberlin planned for a new station, they pushed for this facility to become the first LEED certified fire station in Ohio. 

LEED, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a program that awards certifications to newer buildings that are especially environmentally conscious. The program uses a point system; the more points the building has based upon green initiatives, the higher their rating is. As of 2009, the Oberlin Fire Station has a LEED-gold certification, meaning that its remodel was executed with strategies to ensure the station would use energy and water efficiently, emit less carbon dioxide, and provide a safer and cleaner indoor working environment. The green fire station was inspired by the vibrant and motivated Oberlin community that the firefighters serve and protect. 

“It’s a privilege and an honor to work here and for a community that takes great pride in sustainability,” said Fire Chief Robert Hanmer. 

With the support of the Oberlin community, Oberlin City Council, and the assistance of Oberlin College, the Oberlin Fire Department was able to remodel its fire station to match the environmental commitment that characterizes the community. Firefighters and architects alike considered many opportunities for energy efficiency and lower material impact. The reality is that there are environmentally conscious ways of living that can save money for an entire community — high expenses and eco-friendly living should not go hand-in-hand.

The building’s features include rooftop solar panels, pervious concrete in the parking lot, a cistern that allows gray-water collected to be used for toilets, and a rooftop garden with plants specifically selected to mitigate water collection on the roof. The city and fire station are currently working with Oberlin Municipal Light and Power and Oberlin’s Environmental Dashboard team to pilot technology for continuously monitoring and displaying water and electricity use within the facility. This will allow the city to more carefully track resource use and identify opportunities for additional conservation measures. The display will also allow the city to better communicate its conservation commitments to the Oberlin community. If this technology proves successful in the fire station, it will likely be expanded into other city-owned buildings. 

The station additionally worked to find ways to improve firefighting, rescue tools, and tech through sustainable means, as a part of their ongoing commitment to environmentalism. 

The City of Oberlin and its fire department are constantly looking for new opportunities to increase efficiency and decrease environmental impact, including switching the types of lightbulbs they use in the station to LED bulbs and incorporating glass garage doors to utilize sunlight rather than bulbs. They also invested in upgrading the fire trucks to reduce exhaust pollution. There are many examples of other ways in which Oberlin is leading efforts to implement green firefighting practices. 

These include electric “Jaws of Life” that are used to extract people who are trapped and other tools that use rechargeable battery power from their solar array, as well as a compressed air foam cannon on top of one of their engines, used to suffocate fires and reduce carbon emissions.

For several decades now, the City of Oberlin has been at the forefront of the environmental movement. We, as a community, have committed to stopping the use of fossil fuels for electricity generation by 2050, and the Oberlin Fire Department and future public buildings are just the first steps along the way. Members of the Oberlin Fire Department saw the opportunity to support their community and didn’t hesitate to grab it. Oberlin community members should feel so proud that they are home to one of the few green fire stations in the country. 

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