Text description provided by the architects. Context + Site
After extensive study, the City of Richmond decided to replace an existing 40 year old fire hall, which no longer met the needs of the community, with a new state of the art post-disaster facility. The City’s goals for the project included the provision of an iconic civic facility marking the entry into the Steveston area of the community. The previous fire hall was located at this same location, however in order to accommodate the current requirements an adjacent residential property was acquired and integrated into the site. The site is located at a key intersection of two arterial roads within mature single family residential neighborhood.
Program + Client
The program required that Richmond Fire Rescue be operated out of a temporary facility on newly acquired portion of the site during construction. The location of the temporary facility, existing sewer right-of-ways, building setbacks and the strict truck turning requirements for drive-through apparatus bays resulted in a very precise location and oblique orientation of the new fire hall building. The hose-drying/training tower was positioned closest to the street intersection allowing it to announce its presence as a beacon and to help mark the arrival into the Steveston community. Facing the streets, the transparent apparatus bays, with turn-out gear rooms and workshops attached, proudly open their inner workings to the public’s view with the extensive use of glazing. Work areas, including the communication counter, offices, meeting room, captain’s office, day room and kitchen/dining were located away from the street intersection for better privacy and to provide quieter sleeping quarters. Gender neutral dormitory and washrooms were located on the second floor with fitness area overlooking the apparatus bays. Each program spaces were strategically organized and designed to maximize visual connection and to minimize response time from the work / accommodation areas to the apparatus bays. The visual transparency and the efficiency of the circulation routes work together to achieve direct routes and very low response time for access to the trucks.
Theory + Design Principles
The massing of the building was mainly governed by the operational requirements of the apparatus bays and the hose/training tower. The front half of the apparatus bays was raised in relation to the back half in order to provide the additional clearance required when lifting up the cabs of the fire trucks for maintenance. The height of the hose / training tower allows the standard length fire hoses to be hung at their mid-point for drying. The balcony levels at the back of the tower were set at specific height for ladder and rescue training. The living quarters were stacked to reduce building footprint. Lower massing at the building entrance signified point of arrival; and was designed structurally to support additional second floor dormitory should the size of fire crews increase in the future.
Most conventional fire hall design relies on visually distinct forms for the apparatus bays and working/living areas. This project employs a contrary strategy whereby the programmatic elements are united cross grain tying the various elements together in a cohesive whole. Furthermore, unlike conventional inconspicuous and closed-box fire hall buildings, Steveston Fire Hall represents a strong civic gesture by proudly displaying its “civicness” by providing openness and transparency to the public. The wood (pine beetle affected) and metal composite building skin is folded into three distinct forms. Each is folded differently in response to the massing required by the program. The open ends of the building skins are infilled with glass curtain wall to bring in daylight and to accommodate natural ventilation. The gaps between the skins become light filled circulation spaces. Additional skylight and windows are created by cut-outs in the building skins to bring natural daylight into typically enclosed spaces.
Budget + Time Constraints
Steveston Fire Hall was delivered within the project’s expected budget and schedule. The client reflects strong satisfaction with the smooth coordination and delivery of this project.
Steveston Fire Hall incorporates a wide array of innovative sustainable design principles that focus on energy efficiency and user comfort; and is targeting LEED® Gold certification. Some of the specific strategies employed on this project include:
• Complete salvage and relocation of the existing house which was located on the newly acquired lot.
• Recycling and re-use of demolition and construction waste.
• Use of pine beetle-affected wood as structural and finished material helps to mitigate impacts from the provincial mountain pine beetle infestation and facilitates socio-economic benefit to the region
• Reduced heat gain with extensive green roofs, vertical green screens and extended curtainwall caps
• Reduced heating load with geothermal system, radiant floor, solar hot water pre-heat system and heat recovery system
• Provision of fresh air, views and daylight to all occupied spaces with extensive operable windows
• Reduced lighting load by harvesting daylight from low-E glazing and by utilizing daylight/occupancy sensors
• On-site storm water management with rain gardens
Generally, reducing energy consumption could be best achieved by reducing demand while providing energy through most efficient systems. Energy demand in the Steveston Fire Hall has been reduced by measures such as providing windows and occupancy sensors to minimize the need for electric lights during the day and reducing heat loss through a well-insulated, high-performance building envelope. At the same time, energy is provided by a combination of systems: a ground-source heat pump system (commonly called geo-exchange or geothermal); solar hot water panels on the roof; and, a heat recovery system which extracts heat from outgoing air and uses it to preheat the incoming air.
The project team has designed the building with the goal of providing maximum health and comfort for users. Various building design features have contributed to achieving this goal; from operable windows and low-emitting materials to effective ventilation system and ample daylighting.