Concept and Design Strategy: Waterford Fire Station is the emergency response centre for fire fighting, river rescue, car crashes, training and public consultation in the region. In an inhospitable environment on the ring road around the city, it creates its own artificial landscape, a new geography of enclosure.
Shaped around the active service it delivers where function is paramount, the building form is derived from the tracking movements of the fire tenders leaving their appliance bays at speed and returning after fire fighting duties. A strong but simple enclosing form wrapped in zinc is folded around - origami-like - to enclose a large drill yard, itself differentiated into different training zones. Behind the clear organisational form of the building, the Fire Station operates like a large family, with tough training designed to foster lasting bonds of mutual support essential for hazardous fire fighting operations. The Station has been thought of like a large house, with people coming and going at different hours, some sleeping, some wakeful - a series of linked spaces conducive to family life are assembled, facilitating everything from serious and dirty training, to individual study, to communal recreation, to cooking the Sunday roast in the heart of operations – the canteen.
Organised in a sort of spiral, rising from single storey vehicle parking, workshops and dormitories to a first floor of offices, canteen, leisure and study facilities and terminating at a third storey lecture theatre, the zinc roof is angled and cut away to provide a series of sheltered inside-outside spaces overlooking the yard, where the drill tower acts like an urban beacon in a new public space.
Structure: A steel structure was selected, supported on an in situ concrete slab on strip foundations. Intermediate floors were also in situ slabs on steel beams. The wide span Appliance Bay was achieved using steel trusses to facilitate the appliances driving through from drill yard to outside active duty.
Materials and Construction: The main public elevations are composed of significant areas of curtain wall glazing, interspersed with plastered and painted blockwork. To the more private drill yard the main material of the external envelope is zinc sheeting on a timber substrate of plywood sheeting utilising a proprietary spacing material to generate a ventilation layer to the back of the zinc.
Sustainability & Energy: From the outset the design team used the “Lean, Clean and Green” approach to the design of Waterford Fire Station;
Lean Design: This reduces the building’s requirement for energy to make the building as Lean as possible. The idea is to reduce the buildings requirement for heat, mechanical ventilation, water and power. The building is predominantly naturally ventilated except for the lecture theatre. Insulation levels greatly exceed compliance levels. Heat recovery units have been employed in the changing areas to optimise heat exchange for showers for the 64 firefighters, organised into 4 watches, who carry out round-the-clock monitoring of the region.
Clean: At this stage we looked at ways to maximise the use of natural resources on site and maximise the efficiency of equipment and technologies proposed for the site.
Green: Concrete with fly ash aggregate (Ecocem) has been utilised throughout all concrete structures. Space has been allocated for future renewables, rainwater harvesting and a wood pellet boiler.
McCullough Mulvin Architects is a design-based practice based in Dublin. They have worked on cultural and civic buildings, libraries, schools and in healthcare throughout Ireland, working to define a new public realm in a changing society, designing projects from the ground or making radical and innovative contemporary interventions into existing contexts. Previous projects include The Long Room Hub in Trinity College. Beaufort Laboratory (National Centre for Wave Energy) and Waterford Fire Station introduces a new group of process-driven buildings which make dramatic forms in the landscape from constructed volumes with large scale industrial character spaces. The work of McCullough Mulvin Architects is extended by publication, teaching and research in Ireland, Europe, USA and India. Their latest project involves the design of a number of new buildings on a University campus in the Punjab, India.