Kilbarrack's 'green plan' is set to be extended across Dublin

BEE hives, bat houses, insect colonies, wild gardens and vegetables – no, it's not a hippie commune, it's Dublin's latest vision for the future of its fire stations.

One Dublin station has taken the initiative to 'rethink' the future of public service premises. Kilbarrack fire station was the first in the world to begin trading carbon with major companies on the stock exchange as part of an effort to reduce emissions. Its sale of carbon savings means that reductions are spread across companies and the profits are reinvested in the service.

But there is more to the "green plan", due to be officially launched by Dublin Fire Brigade this September.

Most of the water used to extinguish fires is collected rain and recycled waste; staff eat homegrown vegetables; and the National Wildlife Trust has been consulted on possible internet links to the fire brigade's in-house wildlife and 30 birdhouses.

Last week, carbon audits highlighted an 80% reduction in Kilbarrack station's carbon footprint. While the move to cut the carbon footprint was heavily sponsored by Dublin City Council, the plan was essentially the vision of one man and his inextinguishable desire to change old attitudes.

"We should be looked at as leaders of sustainability," explained visionary firefighter and father of two Neil McCabe. "We have two beehives under construction, insect habitats, and a bio-diversity garden. We also have an impressive bat box and everything is made by the guys for the station on their days off."

Kilbarrack station is the first in the country to use a 30% biodiesel mix in its engines. Transport makes up one part of the five-part plan, which also includes waste, water, energy and biodiversity.

"Basically it started three years ago. The morale wasn't great in another station I worked in because it was so old," said McCabe. "I came up with this idea of the green plan that had everyone becoming involved in the running costs of the station and its carbon footprint."

So successful is the concept that it is predicted an initial investment of around €250,000 will be completely recouped within three years.

Depending on its success, Dublin Fire Brigade, funded by the city council, will extend the plan to all stations and potentially into other public office spaces.

"The bees are a fairly big part of the project. We are not keeping up with the bee count but we won't be going around selling honey," explained McCabe.

He added that homegrown vegetables and a wild garden are all part of a rethinking of how to run a modern workplace.

A spokeswoman for the fire service said: "On final and successful outcome the plan will be used as a template for all Dublin Fire Brigade locations. Even now some of the new technology is being rolled out to our other fire stations. The signs at present are very encouraging as it is proving to be very cost-effective."