Saturday, June 22, 2024
June 22, 2024

Post-disaster standard met in fire hall design

A lifetime inside the darkest-red area of every seismic hazard map might have left many of us a little nonchalant about living under earthquake threats. 

Not so for emergency responders, thankfully; and after coring and sounding more than 100 feet into the soft — and often moist — dirt beneath the site of Salt Spring Island’s future fire hall, staff and trustees decided a little delay in final design work now could make a big difference down the line.  

Now, as of the district’s meeting Monday, Jan. 15, that final work is complete — and the new fire hall on Lower Ganges Road next to Brinkworthy will still be fully “post-disaster” compliant, according to CAO Rodney Dieleman, who delivered an updated status report on the delayed start of the project.  

“Normal” buildings in seismic hazard zones are designed to remain standing after an earthquake; so-called “post-disaster buildings” are meant to also remain operational. The difference reflects the importance of those buildings’ functions during a catastrophic event, and how they are used during a crisis to deliver essential services. 

With a little more structural steel, fewer wood beams, slightly smaller windows and a solid foundation underpinning, the fire hall when completed will be more resilient — and the 90 days taken to review site conditions and redesign to ensure compliance with the “post-disaster” standard won’t affect the construction schedule, according to Dieleman. 

“The design is complete,” said Dieleman. “On Wednesday the consultants will be stamping off their designs, and we’ll be submitting our building plans for permitting. The construction manager has been pricing out his plans since last week, and will be tendering those plans probably before the first week of February.” 

The standard time those tasks should take, according to Dieleman, is two to three weeks — meaning construction could begin as early as mid-March. 

“We are now at a point where the bus has left the station,” said board chair Rollie Cook, noting there had also been indications of some better pricing for building materials — and downward-creeping interest rates, possibly reducing the costs of borrowing. “With a bit of luck, we will actually come in below our projected budget.” 

Dieleman noted there had been no changes to the $13.7-million project budget, construction schedule timeline, or the approved borrowing amount of $9.7 million authorized by referendum. The project’s current financial estimate is $12.3 million — fully financed, he added, with no increases to taxes or the Salt Spring Island Fire Rescue Service budget for the new fire hall construction and financing.  

As of the new year, expenditures totalling $477,000 have been allocated to building design, civil design, site survey, geotechnical investigations, and associated electrical, structural and mechanical designs, according to Dieleman’s report.

For more information as the project continues, visit

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