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Posted on: April 7, 2023

Ketchum Fire Station: A Model for Innovation and Sustainable Design

Ketchum Fire Station

Blog images courtesy of COLE Architects. Photographer: Tobin Rogers

By Naomi Priddy, Communications Intern, Boise State University

For the City of Ketchum Fire Department, safety and health are paramount, and its new station reflects these values.  

If you were to walk through the building of the old Ketchum Fire Station you would find a car dealership, police station and city hall. The building was in disrepair and at one point the ceiling in the apparatus bay had collapsed onto an ambulance, says Fire Chief Bill McLaughlin. 

The conversation surrounding a new fire station started in 1998 but only recently was actualized when the new fire station was completed in 2021. 

As a reflection of the Fire Department’s commitment to health and safety and the City of Ketchum’s commitment to sustainability, the Ketchum City Council set an expectation that the new facility would be built to achieve a LEEDTM Silver certification. The project team meet and exceeded their expectations by also designing the building to transition to net zero energy by 2030. That means that the total amount of energy used for the building operations will be generated onsite or through purchase of renewable energy resources. 

LEED, short for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a system that focuses on a holistic approach to building design. The certification is built with an emphasis on energy and water conservation, climate and habitat protection, and health and safety. Factoring those elements into a design, the system aims to reduce a building’s contribution to climate change, biodiversity decline, water resource degradation, and human health conflicts. Ketchum Fire Engine

The project was managed by Ketchum Fire Chief McLaughlin. The chief was supported by project architect Matt Huffield of COLE Architects and green building consultant Kate Kelly of Brightworks Sustainability. 

According to Huffield, the process of achieving LEED Silver certification requires an intentional and integrated approach. The certification is based on achieving a certain number of points that are applied to different sustainable goals in the design. To receive the silver certification the Ketchum Fire Station had to accumulate between 50 and 59 points. Many of these points are based primarily on energy usage and solar orientation. 

“The Fire Station was a complicated project because of the high energy loads for heating and cooling the building to best serve the community needs,” Huffield said. 

The green building strategies focused on maximizing the efficiency of energy systems, meeting high standards for indoor air quality, and selecting toxic-free paints and finishes. The design team also source as many materials as possible from within a 500-mile radius to reduce the climate impacts of shipping building materials long distances. 

Construction was finished in March of 2021 and in 2022 the Ketchum Fire Department received its LEED Silver Certification. 

According to green building consultant, Kate Kelly, the new fire station includes energy efficiency measures that lowered energy usage and costs by 23.8 percent based on modeled energy cost savings. The water conservation measures led to a 26 percent water cost savings and 40 percent reduction in indoor water use.


Air source heat pumps for heating and cooling

Energy Recovery Units on the exhaust air 

High-efficiency Variable Refrigerant Flow units with inter-zonal heat recovery 

All HVAC systems use high-efficiency fans 

High-efficiency condensing boiler provides hot water heating for the apparatus bay radiant floor system

Significantly lower lighting power density values from efficient lighting fixtures and occupancy sensors

High-performing insulation values for exterior walls lower heating and cooling energy 

Electric, induction cooktop


Solar- and EV-ready systems will facilitate cost-effective solar and EV charging installation

Space allocated for energy storage to facilitate installation


Efficient systems, fixtures, and controls 


Secure bike storage encourages car-free commuting.

Construction was completed eight weeks ahead of schedule and included design concepts unique to Ketchum's fire station. “LEED informed some of the technological advancements,” McLaughlin said. “We also introduced new concepts to fire station design based on our experience that made the station more sustainable and more efficient for providing services.”

The new fire station includes a vehicle exhaust detection system that captures and removes harmful particulates and gases using hoses that redirect the diesel emissions to a location outside of the building. This advancement is being used in other fire stations. However, Ketchum’s fire station also installed new detectors that constantly monitor carbon monoxide along with other gasses and automatically ventilates the emissions before levels reach unhealthy levels.

A new alerting system with fiber optic cable sends dispatch information much faster, lowering incident response times. The system features digital leaderboards displayed in front of each apparatus that directs firefighters to the exact incident location. A new alarm system gradually turns the red lights on and gradually gets louder so as to not startle awake the firefighters. This type of incremental alarm system improves firefighter health and safety by preventing firefighter heart rates from reaching extreme highs. 

The project supports the Ketchum Fire Department’s mission to preserve and enhance the quality of life for its citizens and visitors and provide the highest level of emergency medical services, fire protection, rescue, public education, and protection of life, property, and the environment. 

And, Fire Chief McLaughlin hopes the new fire station serves as a regional example for future fire facilities and demonstrates the City of Ketchum’s leadership in climate solutions such as green building, energy efficiency, and renewable energy systems

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