Designer Forum: Tecton Architects creates a design for a fire station that is both appealing and suited to the unique environment - Nov 2021

By Brianna Hoyle

The new Lexington Fire Headquarters in Lexington, Massachusetts combines the modern amenities and safety of a new building with a traditional aesthetic that reflects the station’s locale in one of the country’s most recognizable historic districts, just a half mile from the Lexington Battle Green. Designed by Tecton Architects based in Hartford, Connecticut, this facility, built to LEED Gold standards, presented a diverse and unique blend of requirements with regard to selecting finishes and flooring selections. At once, it had to meet the practical considerations of an emergency response facility, represent the civic identity of the community it serves and provide a “home away from home” for department staff.

On the exterior, the station employs the time-honored brick of its surrounding New England neighborhood, balanced by clean lines and contemporary metal finishes. This dichotomy of traditional and modern design is amplified within the station. Upon entering the vestibule, visitors are greeted by traditional wood paneling with clean geometry and black trim. The vestibule runs 12’ long with a complete Mats Inc. recessed entrance flooring system. A border of matching broadloom walk-off carpet surrounds the grates and helps make the recess below easy to access and clean.

As a community-owned facility, the approach into the building was designed to reflect the history and character of the department, while echoing the forward-thinking nature of this Boston suburb. To achieve that, Tecton created a double-sided glass display case that provides a view into a memorial space for the fire department’s antique American LaFrance engine. In addition to the transparency of the display, glass vestibule doors enable visibility into the lobby, while limiting access to maintain the security required of an emergency response facility.

As a public space, the lobby evokes the same sense of place as the main entry, with the same wood paneling extending along the walls. The black trim of the paneling picks up on the black outline in the terrazzo flooring underfoot. This black terrazzo works with additional tones in grey and beige to create three distinct zones within the lobby and provide subtle wayfinding that leads deeper into the station. The first zone leads into the memorial space, the second to the fire chief and training room, and the third to the second floor and back corridor of offices. Wood soffits and rectangular light fixtures above reflect the flooring pattern and amplify this delineation.

Approaching the elevator and stairwell to the second floor, certain key design elements shift focus. The wood paneling terminates, the floor pattern melts into one solid color, and a saturated pop of burnt umber is used to punctuate the wall. A series of gypsum board reveals wrap the elevator shaft and carry the color upstairs to create a conceptual representation of an engine ladder. The stairs themselves echo the wood used in the lobby on the riser, with black terrazzo treads that create a contrast and define a clear path upwards.

As an emergency response facility, function was paramount to the design. Apparatus bays make up a substantial portion of the 26,000-square-foot facility, with ten bays in total (four double-deep and two smaller EMS bays). Due to the amount of overhead equipment, careful consideration was given when piecing together the ceiling layout. Lighting and fans sit at a single elevation so that all other mechanical and firematic equipment has ample space to move as needed. Due to site constraints, drive-through bays were not feasible, and trucks must be backed into their spots. Bright yellow striping was integrated into the epoxy flooring and the wall paint as a visual guide to the driver. This area of the station also includes space for onsite decontamination of equipment, and the flooring provides an easily cleanable surface to help mitigate carcinogens and advance responder health.

At the back of the main apparatus bays sit the training tower and mezzanine. Essential training exercises take place in both locations, and each receive a high level of daily abuse. With this in mind, the spaces were kept very utilitarian, aside from appropriate sealers and coatings for the concrete floor.

On the second floor, a fitness center posed a distinct challenge, with placement directly above the station’s large training room. A 2” thick heavy-duty rubber flooring from Ecore called Everlast Smashtile was used to combat acoustical and reverberation issues. To maintain a smooth transition into neighboring areas, the concrete slab below was recessed. While the flooring system aids in reverberation caused by equipment being transferred to the space below, it was also necessary to mitigate any noise being bounced around the room. To provide enough head height clearance above tall equipment, a drop-in acoustical ceiling was not feasible. Instead, acoustic panels were directly attached onto the deck above and color matched for concealment.

Aside from the functional aspects of the design, there also needed to be a place for the department to decompress when not training, responding to a call, or maintaining gear and equipment. A kitchen, dining room and day room create a comfortable common area suite. The fully equipped kitchen is designed to withstand heavy use, while providing warmth and respite. This is achieved through cabinet finishes, a traditional butcher block island and a Trinity Tile porcelain tile floor in the design Estate Wood, which mimics the look of inlaid hardwood. This tile carries into the dining and day rooms, creating connection and continuity, while a folding partition mimics the feel of a vintage apparatus bay door. When closed, it creates an intimate “living room” feel, while opening enables a larger connected space for holiday celebrations or large events.

For those in search of a quieter environment, the station features private, comfortable bunk rooms. Carpet tile by Shaw, from the Vertical Layers collection in the style Uncover, provides softness underfoot, while a mix of bedside wall sconces, bright overhead lighting and blackout shades create flexibility for relaxation or rest.

The fire headquarters was designed to meet the progressive sustainability guidelines of the town of Lexington and is a highly efficient and resilient building. Material and flooring selections were made with consideration for both recycled content and sustainable manufacturing processes. The station uses a full electric and solar thermal system, including the first full-electric radiant apparatus floor in the world. No fossil fuels are burned onsite, with the exception of a back-up hot water heater and kitchen range. Roof-top photovoltaics offset the building’s electrical use and are hidden from street view, in keeping with historic district considerations. This LEED Gold-equivalent building performs as designed, exceeding the ASHRAE 90.1 standard by 30%.

Ultimately, while design elements, finishes and flooring selections were tailored to the singular needs of each space-public versus private, essential versus accessory, etc.-the cohesive whole echoes the department’s mission with distinctive character and innovation that set it apart.

Copyright 2021 Floor Focus 

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