College of the Rockies – Custom Case Study

VGF has designed and installed many custom projects over the years, indoor, outdoor, large, and small. Here you’ll find a collection a few favourite projects, some straight-forward, some filled with challenges, and others that are just plain ‘ole fun. We put them together to form the Vancouver Gas Fireplaces Custom Case Studies.


The finished installation of this fire feature, conceived by KMBR architects, was installed in an atrium at the College Of the Rockies in Cranbrook B.C.. It is clean and striking; a fire pit of gas generated fire coming through stones contained within a pyramid like glassed-in structure with no visible means of venting in the middle of an atrium. To achieve this seeming straightforward installation a number of technical issues had to be worked out.

The inspiration behind the whole project is the design of the Louvre; a pyramid shaped steel and glass fabrication the Kephren made in France by Arkaine. This innovative technical design has four vent tubes going up behind each sloping corner of the fabrication.

The tubes are open ended at the high point. At the base, the four vent tubes are gathered into the venting system which is run out through the ceiling below to a side wall location. At this point, a variable speed power draft inducer is mounted on the exterior wall, connected to the venting. The draft inducer provides the positive pull through the vent system, up through the four tubes in the fabrication, venting out the flue gases. As the installation is a closed system, the venting is balanced by an intake duct which provides combustion air and dilution air for the venting. The intake air is pulled into the body of the fabrication by the draft inducer and distributed up through the base. The variable control on the power draft inducer is used for balancing the flow, too fast and the flame becomes too lively, or is pulled off the burner, too slow and the flame becomes too lazy, and is subject to excess carboning.

The Kephren unit was originally designed for wood burning, meaning that the enclosure is already well within acceptable tolerances in terms of heat clearances. No real accommodation was originally designed into the unit to have a gas burner. We designed a custom sand pan style burner to sit on the base of the unit which consists of a welded steel pan approximately two inches deep. The pan will have a burner installed into it, appropriately sized and shaped, that will sit above the base of the pan and below the top of the pan. The gas feed for the burner will typically come up through the base of the pan to the burner. The burner will have holes drilled into the bottom of it, sized to allow a measured amount of gas to be released into the pan. The pan is filled with silica sand, which covers the burner. When the gas is released into the sand, it works it’s way up through the sand and combusts on the surface, causing a random, dancing flame pattern. The flame pattern is enhanced by what ever non-combustible material is placed on the sand. In the case of this Kephren installation, ceramic rocks were used.

To control the burner an electronic ignition valve was used along with an interlock unit which ensured the powered draft inducer was running prior to the ignition of the burner. Conversely, that the draft inducer ran for a period of time after the burner shut off, removing the remaining flue gasses from the enclosure. The valve and interlocking control were retrofitted into the base of the unit and were controlled remotely by a timed switch.

The collaboration between KMBR on the architectural design, Vancouver Gas Fireplaces on the technical design, and Wales Mclelland, the contractor, resulted in an unique installation providing a strong focal point for the College Of the Rockies.

For more photos, check out this project on Houzz.

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Vancouver Gas Fireplaces’ custom fabrications and installations are designed and tested to exceed UL/ULC standards and associated sections pertaining to the harmonized North American Gas Code.
In British Columbia our custom projects are subject to an
independent preliminary review by the Equipment Approvals Manager of the Gas Safety Authority of British Columbia and a subsequent field review and inspection by Independent Arms Length Government Inspectors.
Our installations and fabrications outside of British Columbia have been independently tested and approved by ULC, Inreteck and other certified and recognized independent testing agencies through out North America as specifically required by local jurisdictions.