Onondaga Nation's eco-friendly firehouse produces all of its own energy


The designers relied on local, renewable resources, primarily timber, for construction.

By Lucy Wright. Originally published in InHabitat.

Environmentally friendly materials, community-focused design and renewable energy combine in Tsha'thoñswatha', the Onondaga Nation's new fire station. Designed by Syracuse-based Ashley McGraw Architects in close collaboration with the Nation community, the new building replaced an old, corroded firehouse and added a community hall in Onondaga County, New York. The building, which was designed to meet net-zero energy standards, was constructed by local community members.

Named Tsha'thoñswatha' after the Nation's phrase 'where they put it out,' the new firehouse is an inspiring showpiece and destination that is eco-friendly and educational; it also helps bring the community closer together. Unlike its steel, prefab predecessor, the site-specific Tsha'thoñswatha' firehouse is built mainly from timber. The team selected materials that were natural, local and recyclable or renewable whenever possible.

To further reduce the building's impact on the environment, the architects equipped the firehouse with a 100kW solar array. Ten wells dug 400 feet into the ground provide geothermal heating and cooling and power radiant flooring in the truck bays. Natural light is optimized throughout to reduce reliance on the LED lights. "The building is designed to produce as much renewable energy as it uses on an annual basis," said Andrew Schuster, principal at Ashley McGraw Architects. "Our computer models show a net-zero energy building."

The new building is meant to be a welcoming community center and includes a new community hall, offices and meeting rooms.

In addition to its beautiful appearance and eco-friendly benefits, the firehouse offers an office suite, a meeting room for classes, a greater variety of storage spaces and improved outdoor circulation so that trucks can idle on the parking pad without impeding traffic. The firehouse is connected to a 150-seat wood community hall, which is evocative of a longhouse on the interior. This building is equipped with a state-of-the-art kitchen as well as a sheltered gathering space outside.


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