The Oscars and the Emmys may be better known, but the Station Design Awards, honoring outstanding fire station design, have a much more direct effect on communities across America. When fire stations are designed to support first responders’ wellbeing, communities benefit from better firefighting and EMT service. And when stations are designed to encourage interaction with the community, everyone benefits from better fire prevention awareness and involvement.
Fire stations present some unique design challenges, including:
- equipment contaminated by hazardous materials encountered in fires
- engines’ carbon monoxide exhaust intruding into fire station living areas
- common areas that allow for multiple activities without noise or space conflicts
- secure storage for bulky “turnout” protective gear, uniforms, and personal items
- sleeping areas that promote good sleep habits for high-functioning first responders
Last year’s award winners came from all parts of the U.S., from Washington State to Texas to Ohio to South Carolina. The judges looked particularly at zone designs (separating contaminated “hot” zones from the “cold” zone of living areas); sleeping areas that balanced isolation against privacy needs; and fire station building security. In stations where interactions with the public are common, and even encouraged, any access to administrative and living areas still has to be controlled. Equipment, turnout gear, and firefighters’ personal property must be stored safely in cages and lockers.
Writing in Firehouse.com, Janet Wilmoth reviewed station design trends reported by architects involved in station design. In addition to green design and LEED certification, these design professionals are seeing more indoor recreation spaces – which help reduce stress and build camaraderie – and the addition of community rooms and small walk-in clinics which improve outreach to the neighborhoods served by these fire stations.
This year’s Station Design Awards will be announced in November. Best of luck to all the entrants, along with thanks to first responders everywhere for their service.
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