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Design Discussions: Lobster Tales

Design Discussions’ is a bi-weekly, virtual event series, for and by FBM. Every two weeks we explore important conversations about the built environment. Collectively these are a way to bring together multiple perspectives and thinking to explore new ideas about how we can build a better future together.


In the fall, FBM was contracted to design office and warehouse space for international lobster exporters, First Catch Fisheries Ltd., within the newly expanded cargo network of Halifax’s international airport.
The nature of office space adjacent to a 2,030 sq. m. seafood export operation requires precise detailing of environmental conditions and presented logistical challenges, including temperature differentials, high humidity, and saltwater damage.
The primary goal of any food export is quality. To keep lobsters healthy from harvest to transport, a saltwater “shower” mimics their natural ocean environment and clears away debris.
HIA’s landlocked facility necessitated a closed shower system designed by Florida-based Aquatech in conjunction with FBM’s engineering consultant, CBCL Limited. A section of the life-support system contains bacteria-coated beads that eat lobsters’ waste, keeping the system and the lobsters healthy.
Keeping the salt water in the ‘shower room,’ and off the rest of the facility floors, was priority. The 2,000 GPM (gallons per minute) shower created a requirement for a water-safe, salt-proof floor coating. Sloped floors and a collection trench were incorporated into the warehouse design. The client also devised a new product packing method for their custom lobster totes, which will virtually eliminate dripping water from the warehouse and storage area floors and airplane cargo holds.
Humidity and condensation issues due to the fluctuating ambient temperatures as well as cold storage spaces posed additional challenges that were addressed by treating the 2-4°C refrigerated warehouse as several self-contained walk-in coolers. This cooler-room approach will help First Catch’s corporate offices, located just above the shower room, remain warm and comfortable.
The open office design features sleek demountable glass partitions, exposed roof structure and polished concrete floors as well as a selection of colourful modern furniture.
Through investigation, research and consultation, this unique facility will adapt a basic warehouse to play a considerable role in lobster exports—a major contributor to Nova Scotia’s economy.


This week's Design Discussion was facilitated by intern architect, Cassie Kent.