Week 24 – Visit from Neil McCabe « Designing Dublin: Learning to Learn

Week 24 – Visit from Neil McCabe

Neil McCabe, a Dublin City Fire Fighter and champion of the world’s first carbon neutral fire station joined us on Wednesday. Over four years ago, Neil set about boosting the morale in Kilbarrack fire station by refurbishing the station. However, with a shortage of funding, he realised that the only way to refurbish the fire station would be if it paid for itself. This set him on a path of researching during the day while working the night shift to draw up a green plan and define seven themes for sustainability towards creating a carbon neutral fire station. The target Neil set for the project was to adopt technology and best practice, include local business and economy and involve the community. In the four years since then, the fire station has noted an 80% reduction in it’s carbon footprint. It’s the world’s first fire station to put out fires with rain water, treated shower and bathroom water. It’s the world’s first fire station to begin trading carbon stock with businesses. It’s the first in Ireland to use a biodiesel mix in the fire engines. It also houses 1,000 bats in bat houses, several beehives, a commemorative garden, vegetable allotments. These are just a small number of changes Neil has achieved in the fire station to date.

What is most remarkable is the effect that this project has had on the people involved in the project – the fire fighters, the local businesses and local community. It rejuvenated the morale amongst fire fighters, brought retired fire fighter’s back into the station who are now actively seeking projects to work on in other fire stations; local businesses have adopted to provide new carbon neutral technology and equipment and employment rates are up; a number of outreach projects to the community have provided education in biodiversity and awareness of the dangers of fires; the Kilbarrack area in general is enjoying the fruits of biodiversity – with bees pollinating plants, swarms of butterflies and greater range of birds and insects. This project has not only transformed the fire station, but has rejuvenated the Kilbarrack area and has the scale to effect fire stations and communities nationwide.

Neil’s work is the flagship project for the DCC Sustainability Report 2010. It shows how everything is in our own hands, we can improve conditions for others and ourselves, and each contribution adds to Dublin. The project is a template for how other fire stations can work.

Neil’s mantra for the project was – think it out, involve the unexpected and create change, wise words from an extraordinary man!

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