BRW and the City of College Station celebrated the grand opening of Fire Station No. 6. It’s not every day that we design a project in our own backyard, so you can imagine the excitement and pride we have had seeing this project come to life. The City of College Station likes to “do it up right;” so the ceremony appropriately opened with a performance by the College Station Fire Department’s Pipes and Drums. Instead of the standard ribbon-cutting ceremony, Mayor Nancy Berry responded to the “first call” and officially opened the building by sliding down the new fire pole and driving the fire engine straight through the ribbon. The festivities then continued as the station’s personnel broke in their new kitchen and BBQ grill by cooking enough hot dogs and hamburgers for the entire community. There is nothing like testing the equipment and their cooking skills the first day on the job.
Station No. 6 is one of BRW’s largest fire stations to date. Situated in the heart of Bryan/College Station, the new station will serve the University Drive corridor as well as the Texas A&M University campus. The facility’s modern look was designed to fit within the surrounding commercial district while embracing the strict design criteria of the city. Because the site was so restrictive, the large station sits very close to one of the most heavily trafficked roads in Bryan/College Station. To help create a buffer in the small setback, BRW incorporated a “time line plaza,” water feature, and landscaping to soften the buildings presence at a pedestrian level. A timeline of the department’s history was created by engraving the bricks of the plaza with the names of all past employees and volunteers. Just inside the reminiscent hose tower, the station features a historical memorabilia area and a multi-purpose room which is most commonly used for departmental training, but it is also available for use by the community. The remainder of the first floor consists of: a report writing room that doubles as a backup 9-1-1 emergency dispatch center, administrative offices, a 14-person dayroom, a kitchen we would all want to have in our own home, a dining room, and weight room facilities. Five 100 foot deep bays house the Fire apparatus, a Hazmat truck and trailer, EMS Vehicles, and water rescue units. The bays are flanked on each side by support spaces such as a decontamination room, Hazmat and EMS storage, and a Bunker room. The second floor is primarily reserved for the private spaces of the fire personnel which include individual sleeping rooms, unisex bathrooms, a laundry room, and a study room that overlooks the apparatus bay. The station is equipped with a state-of-the-art, customizable, alerting system that can be clearly heard throughout the facility. The system has features such as a timer that helps further motivate quick response time, coded LED lights to assist each crew with identifying their specific calls, and individual controls in each bedroom so that staff members will only be awakened when their crew is called. Last, but not least, no fire station would be complete without a fire pole, so this large station appropriately has two.
As always, designing and constructing fire stations is an exciting process, filled with opportunities to grow and learn with each new project. This project’s dynamic and cooperative team of architects, contractors, and clients worked well together to tackle issues as they arose resulting in an overall pleasurable experience. Together, the project team made sure that the facility was not only finished on time, but also of the highest construction quality. As exciting as it is to see this project complete, it is a little bitter sweet to say so-long to something that has consumed so many of my thoughts for the past several months. Luckily for me, when I’m feeling nostalgic, all I have to do is simply drive by on my way home from work.
All photos courtesy of the City of College Station: To see more click here.
POSTED BY: DIANNE JONES
The Right Materials are Key to Hurricane-Resistant Fire Stations
Firehouses occupy a unique place in our communities–a haven of safety and preparedness, even when disaster strikes. That’s why ensuring that fire stations can withstand common natural disasters is a vital issue for architects.
In parts of Texas, that means constructing firehouses to withstand hurricane-force winds. While no building can be designed to be “hurricane-proof,” they can be constructed to resist a hurricane with only minimal damage.
To that end, Brown Reynolds Watford Architects teamed up with the Texas A&M University colleges of Engineering and Architecture to develop new methods and technologies to build fire stations that can resist hurricane-force winds. We also adopted the Miami/Dade County Building Code, the most stringent of all hurricane codes, and made it effective for all projects designed in hurricane-prone areas.
The challenge, of course, is to build a hurricane-resistant building while staying within budget. In the past, designing a building to resist hurricane winds has added as much as 40 percent to the overall building cost, and some of these buildings still suffered major damage in a hurricane. The City of Victoria Fire Station #4 is one example of our achieving these goals through research and innovative construction methods.
Although concrete has traditionally been used to resist hurricane winds, the cost can be prohibitive and the appearance can look cold and unwelcoming. In Victoria, the use of concrete was limited to the apparatus bays, where reinforced concrete block was skinned in stone to give protection against projectiles hitting the walls, as well as giving it a more attractive appearance.
Steel is more cost effective than concrete, but in our analysis of other buildings, we found that the skins of metal buildings using panels were either not attached correctly or the gauge of the metal was not thick enough. In the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, hundreds of metal buildings had their skin peeled off from the force of the winds, leaving their remaining steel structure exposed.
Rather than using the steel as a cladding material, BRW limited its use in Victoria to framing doors, large openings, and other architectural features such as the training tower. The apparatus bays are also equipped with steel roll-down doors that are installed in front of the everyday glass folding doors. These doors are only used in the event of a hurricane, limiting the negative aesthetic effects they might cause.
Although it seemed the least likely of the three materials, we found that wood construction can be the best in cost as well as one of the strongest in resisting wind loads. Also, the development of new technology, development of straps and fasteners, and the availability of wood gave it an advantage. The living quarters in the Victoria #4 station consist of 2” x 6” wood framing with metal straps at each stud that wrap over the top and bottom plates of all exterior walls. They also include three interior walls, in order to anchor the roof while experiencing uplift wind loads during a hurricane.
The fasteners are placed at very specific locations, which were carefully inspected during construction to ensure the construction documents were followed. The windows in the living quarters are each equipped with a hurricane panel, which is both cost effective and architecturally successful, as it is removable and only used in the event of a hurricane.
As architects, it is not only our responsibility to design captivating buildings to enhance the character of a neighborhood, but also to design safe structures that will withstand the effects of natural disasters.
POSTED BY: rayholliday
Why are fire trucks red? One of the most widely cited explanations dates back to the 1850’s, stemming from a long standing competition between the fire brigades. The idea was that the rig could stand out by being the cleanest, having the most brass, and being the noble color red. Red was the chosen color for the pumpers because it was the most expensive at the time. In addition, red is a color that stands out and is easily recognized on the street. Although there are a many available choices for fire vehicles today, there is no more instantly recognized fire engine color than red.