Hughes Group Architects was faced with several challenges in designing and building the Arlington County (VA) Fire Department’s Station No. 3, including a steeply sloping site, a limited amount of site space, and the need to fit it into the residential Cherrydale neighborhood that had some commercial activity nearby.
Eliel C. Alfon, principal at Hughes Group Architects, says his firm responded to an RFP from Arlington, was interviewed by the selection committee, and was chosen to design the station. "The project started in 2003 and was completed in 2014 because it took time for the county to do a site selection survey, locate a suitable property, involve committees and the community in the selection process, and finally purchase the property for the station," Alfon says. "It was a very involved process, which is why it took so long."
Alfon says that Hughes Group Architects was faced with a very limited site space to work with, approximately one acre, that was purchased from a car dealership. "The county was required to build a parking garage for the dealership because of the loss of space by the sale of the property," he notes. "The site also is in the Cherrydale neighborhood, so we had to make the building's design balance the proportions and materials of a civic building with the scale and contextual forms of local homes."
Ultimately, Hughes Group Architects designed a 14,000-square-foot, two-story, textured brick fire station with metal roofing that houses four single deep apparatus bays that require the vehicles to back into the bays. "Because the site was so tight and hilly, we couldn't do drive-through bays," Alfon points out. "So, we modeled the new fire station after older, traditional firehouses and adjusted the design to meet contemporary demands. The back of the fire station faces a hill, so we had to build a retaining wall at the back of the site."
Besides the apparatus bays, the first floor has offices, a conference room, turnout gear storage room, and mechanical and support spaces.
On the second floor, Hughes Group Architects designed 10 individual bunk rooms with bathrooms, and a double bunk room with bathroom, for a total of 10 rooms and 12 beds. Lockers in the bunk rooms are in a vestibule, so incoming staff don't disturb sleeping firefighters. The Arlington Fire Department has a career fire staff.
Other spaces on the fire station's second floor include a day room, an all-stainless steel kitchen and dining area, a classroom, fitness area, support spaces, outdoor covered patio, and two fire poles to access the first floor.
Alfon notes that a certain percentage of the cost of the project was devoted to artwork, so Hughes Group Architects designed a wall that features the Cherrydale logo from the former fire station.
ALAN M. PETRILLO is a Tucson, Arizona-based journalist, the author of three novels and five nonfiction books, and a member of the Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment editorial advisory board. He served 22 years with the Verdoy (NY) Fire Department, including in the position of chief.