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  T&D > T&D Pubs > Sustainability Solutions > Sustainability Solutions No. 5: New Lake Tahoe Fire Station T&D Web Header
New Lake Tahoe Fire Station Saves Energy and Reuses Waste Water
Photo of the Tucson Interagency Fire Center.
Figure 1—Several measures help prevent runoff from contaminating Lake Tahoe at the new Spooner Summit Fire Station.

The Spooner Summit Fire Station will save energy with a combination of Earth and solar heating and cooling. The station's waste water reuse system will help protect the water quality in Lake Tahoe, known for the clarity of its striking blue water. The 3,390-square-foot Spooner Summit Fire Station is scheduled to be completed in December 2010.

Although ground source heat pumps may cost three to four times as much to install as conventional heating systems, they are 70 to 100 percent more efficient. The extra cost of installation often can be recovered in 3 to 10 years.

One disadvantage of ground source heat pumps is the need for a lot of land to bury pipe carrying the water and antifreeze that exchange heat. Alternatively, a lot of wells may have to be drilled for the same purpose. Solar heating can reduce temperature fluctuations in the circulating water and antifreeze, reducing the amount of land or the number of wells needed.

In the case of the Spooner Summit Fire Station, just six 180-foot-deep heat exchange wells were needed for the ground source heat pump. The new heating system will not only keep firefighters warm, it will warm floors in areas where snow is tracked in, preventing ice from forming.

Photo of the Tucson Interagency Fire Center.
Figure 2—Six heat exchange wells, each 180 feet deep, were drilled for the ground source heat pump at the Spooner Summit Fire Station.

Lake Tahoe has been designated an "outstanding natural resource water" by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Because water quality is so important in the Lake Tahoe basin, erosion control regulations are strict. During construction of the Spooner Summit Fire Station, temporary silt fences were designed to contain sediment generated by a storm that dumps up to 1 inch of rain in an hour. Permanent infiltration trenches will capture runoff from the roof's drip lines and the edges of the parking area.

Sewage from the Spooner Summit Fire Station is stored in a vault rather than being treated in a septic tank. The waste water will be treated in a microprocessing unit and reused in the building's toilets to minimize pumping the vault.

The building uses blown-in cellulose insulation that has an R-value (thermal resistance) of 38 in the ceiling and 21 in the exterior walls. The insulation is made from natural plant materials that are nontoxic, reusable, and biodegradable.

For more information on the Spooner Summit Fire Station, contact Mike Gabor, forest engineer (530–543–2642,

We're interested in what is happening on your unit. Contact Bob Beckley ( at 406–329–3996 to share your sustainability solutions with others in the Forest Service.