The Del Valle Fire & EMS Station serves a portion of the City of Austin recently annexed for the relocation of the city’s airport. The building type itself presents a few design challenges. A fire station is a utilitarian facility that requires durable, low-maintenance materials but still needs to have an inviting presence in the community. The metal barn image of the structure is reminiscent of the utilitarian agricultural structures that dotted the area.
The structural concept was to use a structural steel frame and metal stud infill. This was a unique building type for the client, as their station had been constructed of load-bearing concrete masonry units and built-up wood roof trusses. This structural type expedited the construction process, as it limited the interface of multiple construction trades required under the previous system.
The city was particularly concerned about the roof system. This part of the country has some of the heaviest rates of rainfall, and the city did not want another structure that required chronic roof maintenance. The Galvalume metal roof is a double-lock field-seamed standing seam employed over a rubberized asphalt waterproof membrane. Special care was taken in combining waste and exhaust vents in order to minimize the roof penetrations. These specifications will preserve the lifespan and quality of the roof system. Other durable materials include basic masonry block, selected for its low-maintenance aspects. The combination of smooth- and split-face blocks, careful color selection, and a banding pattern gives the façade interest and avoids an overly industrial look.
Also significant was the need to humanize the building, making it a comfortable place to work and reside for the fire and EMS personnel, who spend long periods of time on duty. This was achieved by utilizing daylight and natural materials. Features such as glass garage doors to the truck bays, clerestories, and a light well serve to fill the space with natural light. Natural wood trim and a pecan “cloud” suspended over the sleeping quarters add warm materials to the interior. Rather than the standard enclosed two-bed rooms, an open dormitory-style room was designed, with six-feet-high privacy partitions. The hope was that this layout would increase social interaction and camaraderie among the firefighters.
The project is 9,000 square feet, including the truck bays and living quarters.