SSW Architects Design Two Seattle (WA) Fire Department Stations That Earn LEED Gold Awards


By Alan M. Petrillo

Schreiber Starling Whitehead (SSW) Architects had designed several fire stations and a number of other projects for the Seattle (WA) Fire Department, so it was no surprise that the city came back to SSW for two fire stations that required different designs in dissimilar neighborhoods. And, those two stations earned both Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold awards and Honor Awards from the Fire Industry Education Resource Organization (F.I.E.R.O.). “We’ve done fire stations and other projects for the city, and helped them in the preparation for the levy that generated funding for the project to build 15 new stations and renovate and upgrade the rest of them,” says Keith Schreiber, principal at SSW Architects. “The city had created a fire station design manual that prescribed the programmatic aspects of all their fire stations, but not the design.”

Schreiber notes that Seattle’s fire station design manual set out the parameters for various size stations: neighborhood one, two, and three and a battalion station. “The program identified what is standard for elements such as bunking, turnout gear storage, kitchen and dining sizes, apparatus bays, and storage options,” he says. “We had worked with the city in the past on new stations and remodels to deal with seismic upgrades.”

Fire Station 28, the first of the two, which was completed in 2009, cost $7.2 million and was initially conceived as a renovation project. However, at some point, it was decided to build a new station, which SSW had to accomplish by designing and building a fire station in an L-shape around the existing facility. Once the new station was in service, the old station was demolished. The advantage to building next to the existing station while it continued to operate, Schreiber says, “is the saved cost of temporarily relocating those operations. We built the new station five feet away from the existing building, and once the new one was operational, we demolished the old station, but used its basement as a cistern to collect storm water that is reused for irrigation and vehicle washing.”

Fire Station 38, completed in 2011 at a construction cost of $3.8 million, is a smaller urban site that once was a gasoline station, Schreiber points out. “There had been fuel leakage into the soil over the years so we had to decontaminate the site,” he says. “We drilled wells to remove the hydrocarbons, and replaced the top four feet of the soil on the entire site.”

Both Station 28 and 38 are built on rock pilings, Schreiber says. “Because of the type of soils, we had to drill down 12 feet and put in compacted stone to create a geo-pier,” he says. “The piers are placed roughly four feet on center over the entire footprint of each station, and then standard foundations and slabs are placed over that. The geo-piers provide stable soil for the stations and meet the essential facility criteria plus 25 percent, which is the larger margin of safety we built into the stations for stronger seismic strength.”

SSW Architects was aiming for at least LEED Silver status with the two stations, but was able to achieve LEED Gold with both of them. “We looked at the things that made the most sense for the stations,” Schreiber says. “We used a lot of regional materials, and built a low emissivity building that did not have much off-gassing. We met the sustainability rules for LEED, and put in rain water collection off the roofs that irrigates the landscapes.”

Seattle Fire Station 28 is a two-story station totaling 14,000-square feet that has three double-deep apparatus bays, two of which are drive-through, that support an aerial ladder, an engine, and a medic response unit. A single story wing houses apparatus support and station office functions, while a two story wing includes the beanery (kitchen and dining areas), and support spaces on the first floor, with bunking rooms on the second. The dorm is set up for eight single bunk rooms, one double, and two officer bunk rooms with a connecting office suite and separate bathrooms. Personal gear lockers are located outside the bunk rooms so sleeping firefighters are not disturbed.

Seattle Fire Stations 38 replaced a small, single-bay station that because of its size and historic character was unfeasible to expand. The new station is eight blocks east of the previous station, with apparatus support and station office functions in a single-story area adjacent to the two apparatus bays. The second story houses the kitchen, day room, and training room functions, while offices and four firefighter and one officer bunking rooms are on the ground floor.

Besides remediating the site of Station 38, Schreiber says, the project incorporated many sustainable features, including efficient space conditioning systems, a highly efficient building envelope, nonirrigated drought-tolerant landscaping, and an onsite rain garden.

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.

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