Indiana Fire Station No. 2 Fights Fire with Brick
A Midwestern city's fire department chose fired clay brick for aesthetics and durability.
After building the award-winning Fire Station No. 1 in 2007, the city of Shelbyville, Ind., needed a second support substation to house eight firefighters. Shelbyville Fire Station No. 2 is one of the city’s three fire stations, and won a Best-in-Class award in the Brick Industry Association’s (BIA) 2014 Brick in Architecture Awards in the municipal/government category.
Station No. 2 resides on two acres of a master-planned brownfield site, and it was the first project built within the planned development to include a mix of commercial, retail and light industrial buildings. “The success of any fire department is measured by the courage and sacrifice made by each firefighter and the sense of security that is provided to the community they serve,” said Kevin Cooper, a partner with Axis Architecture + Interiors, the project architect. “Their facilities should be highly functional, durable, efficient and comfortable to support a 24/7 operation—timeless, well conceived, and provoke a sense of longevity to create pride in the community.”
Developed through workshops with the mayor, fire chief and firefighters, the second fire station’s two main programmatic components are its living quarters and the apparatus bay. Axis used a unique open concept for the kitchen and dining area, designed in the spirit of a modern clubhouse provoking a café-like aesthetic through suspended ceiling clouds, exposed structure and clean lines.
According to Axis, the biggest challenges with the exterior design were the massing of the living quarters and apparatus bay and the context—or lack of context. As the first kid on the block and adjacent to additional undeveloped sites, the design had to employ iconic forms in order to state its presence. In addition, the living quarters only required one level, while the apparatus bay required extra height and clearance.
To solve these challenges, butterfly roof forms with large overhangs were used on both building components. The roof forms give the fire station a dynamic profile and also provide a successful marriage between the two differing volumes. An obelisk demarcates and engages the main entrance to the fire station, and publicizes its civic stature.
Since the primary ingredient in brick is clay, which is fired to around 2000°F, brick is a non-combustible material. As such, it is an excellent cladding choice to resist or confine fires.
In fact, both the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the BIA conducted separate fire tests that conclusively demonstrated that nothing outperforms brick in a 1-hr fire test. For example, today’s “advanced” materials, such as vinyl, were engulfed by flames within minutes.
Building with Brick
Materials, including traditional brick masonry, were all crafted with modern detailing. Each elevation is composed of the appropriate proportion of solid wall and transparent void. “For the purpose of aesthetics and durability, the use of brick for the fire station was a first choice by both the city and the fire department,” said Cooper. “Brick may be considered a traditional material and is regionally available, but it can also be used in ways to support a modern design aesthetic.”
According to Axis, Shelbyville Fire Station No. 2 uses fired clay brick to create the durability required to withstand the test of time. The modern detailing of the brick with the fiber cement board and composite metal panel help to create a modern design to fit into the future context. Axis said the brick also helps to create a relatable human scale for the overall massing of the building.
“Each of these projects benefits, in its own way, from a product that is environmentally sound,” said Walt Steele, paver business manager for Pine Hall Brick Co. “Clay bricks and pavers are made of readily available materials: clay and water. They last virtually forever, and they have an aesthetic quality that is unmatched.”
“Brick was an integral part of the design for the fire station’s massing and the assemblage of the elevations,” said Cooper. “The new station has a unique, modern composition of solid areas (brick) vs. voided areas (glass), which are also a reflection of the building functions within.”
Shelbyville Fire Station #2
Architect: Axis Architecture + Interiors
Builder: Runnebohm Construction
Builder: Garmong Construction Services
Manufacturer: Pine Hall Brick Co., Inc.
Mason Contractor: Joe Miller Masonry
Photographer: Susan Fleck Photography