First Peoples Fire Pit – 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.



Vancouver Gas Fireplaces was contacted by Alfred Waugh Architects to participate in a project for the First Peoples house being built at the University of Victoria, British Columbia. The building design included the installation of a ceremonial “fire pit” in the middle of the assembly space.

For a number of practical reasons, a wood-burning installation had been ruled out and the possibility of using a gas-burning unit was being explored. A gas-fire burning pit in the middle of a large space brought certain challenges. Unlike in days of yore when venting was not a concern, today’s regulations demand strict venting requirements. Venting this proposed installation would require a hood assembly suspended from the ceiling (over twenty feet high) which would come down to a couple of feet above the burner. Vancouver Gas Fireplaces had designed and installed this kind of installation for a number of other projects including another First Nations meeting hall. However, in this current installation, the venting and the hood could interfere with the space’s sight lines.

In researching this project, Alfred Waugh came across a wood-burning fireplace made by Arkiane in France called the Kephren. Inspired by the pyramids and the Egyptian King Kephren, this fireplace had a unique design with an internal vent system. Installed into the four corners of the pyramid, the internal system used power venting to suck smoke down and out, precluding the need for a visible vent system.

The plan was to install the unit on a concrete plinth set into the floor, then run the venting out through the floor to a power vent. The fresh air make-up for the unit was to be brought into the base of the unit through the same path. Since the floor was a graded slab, a concrete trench had to be created to contain the vent runs to the outside of the building. Furthermore, as it was not desirable to have the vent terminate in a well, a vertical vent chase was constructed with the power vent on top to allow the flue gases to be released and dissipated safely above grade.

Given the public profile, uniqueness and precedent-setting aspects of this project, all elements of the installation had to be carefully reviewed by the Gas Safety Authority of BC. They were very helpful and even presented alternate installation solutions for untenable aspects of the original proposal. Further to this, the Kephren unit, while fully approved in Europe, had not yet been approved for North America. It therefore had to be reviewed by the Gas Safety Authority and approved for use.

This was definitely a front-end design project. Along with all the installation and regulatory issues that had to be worked out, Vancouver Gas Fireplaces had to design a custom gas burner to sit inside the unit, complete with electronic ignition and an interlocking control between the burner and the power vent.

When all the design work and preliminary approvals had been obtained, Vancouver Gas Fireplaces arranged with Arkiane in France to have the unit shipped. Once received, we retrofitted the unit with the burner and controls and tested the complete set-up in our shop.

Finally the venting was roughed in and the unit, after a couple of false starts, was installed and fired up. In the end, a very unique feature was made possible by the combined efforts of the architect Alfred Waugh, Vancouver Gas Fireplaces, the site contractor Knappett Construction and the provincial Gas Safety Authority.


Thinking about a custom fireplace?

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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.