Bill Howell, architect and president of The Howell Group, Inc. in Marietta, Georgia, has designed 29 fire stations in the State of Georgia in the past 25 to 30 years.
Fire stations pose a unique opportunity for architects because towns need to add fire services as residential development expands, to keep response time and insurance premiums both low.
However, Howell points out they also pose a unique problem in that they house people alongside highly combustible fuel in large trucks.
Fire Stations in Residential Areas
“The International Building Code has specific separation requirements for the apparatus bay, or storage areas, and for the residential area. To meet code, you have to separate the two types of occupancies with a fire-rated wall assembly such as concrete block and/or sprinklers.”
“I can’t think of any other situation in which to meet code you are dealing with this type of mixed-use occupancy." - Bill Howell
Howell explains the truck storage areas of the fire stations are considered hazardous because the trucks are “storing” diesel fuel. In these cases, the building code requires the use of a material with a two-hour fire rating between the storage and residential areas (if the building doesn’t have fire sprinklers).
Because many fire stations are in the residential areas they serve, Howell is always mindful of aesthetics. This is a lesson he learned long ago on one of his first projects.
The homeowners’ association (HOA) was concerned property values would decrease if an unsightly, industrial-looking fire house rose across the street. Howell’s team looked at the prominent architectural features of the subdivision and designed the fire station to blend in. When the HOA saw the design, it dropped a lawsuit it had filed to block construction.
A recent project located in a small town in Georgia wasn’t in a subdivision, but was near the old downtown historic area.
For this design, Howell tried to relate to the historic area by using conventional modular brick from CRH, as well as Echelon’s Waterford Stone® Artisan Masonry Veneers around the base of the fire station and on the entrance columns.
The Waterford Stone has a hand chiseled texture reminiscent of natural stone, integrated color, and is modular (full-depth) so there’s less cutting and waste. The veneer is also mold resistant and repels water.
Echelon - Trusted in Fire Stations Across the U.S.
All fire stations he designs also have clearly defined public entrances.
“The station needs to be approachable, and people don’t feel comfortable walking up to a fire station if they’re not sure where they should go. There’s always that concern that they’ll be walking in front of the truck bay when there’s a call.”
In this case, the Waterford-wrapped columns accentuate the main doorway to the right of the bays.
“We often use a cast stone on fire stations because the current trend for homes is toward a dual stone and brick exterior. It’s a nice, attractive look. The client benefits from this as well because it is low-maintenance, durable and cost-effective.”
Since 2016, Echelon’s products have been used on 32 fire stations across the United States. Regardless of the location or design, the one feature they all share is that they house diesel trucks (and fuel) just feet apart from human habitats.
The Echelon brand from Oldcastle APG, A CRH Company, offers products that affordably meet the code requirements for these unusual spaces, while also providing minimal maintenance for a long lifespan.
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