Function over fashion

Yukoners should be proud of the new building atop Two Mile Hill, say firefighters and Whitehorse officials. It’s big and relatively empty. Numerous offices and rooms have nothing in them yet.

Yukoners should be proud of the new building atop Two Mile Hill, say firefighters and Whitehorse officials.

It’s big and relatively empty. Numerous offices and rooms have nothing in them yet.

“There’s plenty of room to grow and expand,” officials said at the opening of the new Public Safety Building on Thursday.

The walls are pretty plain: bare with solid, neutral colours. But designers were not after esthetics, they said.

The entire building is like a machine, able to withstand any disaster, they added.

RELATED:See more images of the new facility.

It is the space dedicated to the firefighters and their equipment that’s most impressive.

It is the first, new fire station in 40 years, said Fire Chief Clive Sparks.

And it pulls together equipment and personnel that was once spread all over town, in multiple buildings, he said.

In one room is all the gear: boots inserted in the legs of scrunched overalls, jackets and helmets on the shelf above them.

It is one part of an assembly line that moves to the living quarters and dormitories, or out to the truck bays – depending on whether the staff are coming from or going to an emergency.

The bays are automated sensations – from the lights to the garage doors to the fans above them and the heated floors below.

The giant doors start the mechanic procession from the push of a button – from inside the bay or from the fire truck’s cab.

Despite the automation, power is not an issue. An automatic generator can power all the necessary operations. Or, if all else fails, there are still manual pulleys and chains, just like in the past.

The rest of the building is primarily office space. Across the hall from the future 911 dispatch room, there is space for emergency operations. Right now, it’s just a room with a big table in it.

There are a lot of little things that make a big difference said Bylaw Manager, Dave Pruden, noting the new filing room, change room and small kitchen in the bylaw department.

They were all things we didn’t have, or didn’t have enough space for before, he said, mentioning officers would change into their uniforms under staircases and in the offices of off-duty employees in the old building.

Most of the 20 or so staff from both the fire and bylaw departments have already moved in.

The emergency centre cost about $11 million and took 18 months. But it was only possible because of the federal gas tax initiative, said Mayor Bev Buckway.

It is expected to cost $180,000/year to operate, said George White from the city.

The city has equipped it with several energy saving gizmos to cut about $40,000 from the annual operating costs.

These range from no-water urinals to the more noticeable “light shelves.”

The metal-grated shelves are painted white and hang perpendicular to the window about three quarters the way up. They are meant to reflect the light from the top part of the window against the white ceiling, deflecting natural light further into the room.

They aren’t that pretty, but apart from the sculpture at the front door, a mural near the front entrance and a painting in a side staircase, neither is the rest of the building.

That’s not the point.

Sacrificing beauty for efficiency is expected to win the city some awards, said Buckway.

Not to mention, it helps firefighters and bylaw officers do their jobs quicker and better, they said.

As for the old building, Fire Hall No. 2 is currently being used for storage by the Arctic Winter Games.

Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at roxannes@yukon-news.com