Location Sarasota, FL
Size 12,894 ft2
Cost $3.1 million
Program Fire station
Client Sarasota County Fire Department
Architect Sweet Sparkman Architects
Contractor DeAngelis Diamond Construction
Sarasota County Fire Station No. 1 is proof of a municipal government marrying sustainability with style. The fresh, brick-façade building replaced the declining, 1960s-era station in downtown Sarasota in 2010 and scored LEED Silver, which isn’t exactly unique in Sarasota these days. In 2005, Sarasota became the first county in Florida to adopt a resolution committed to building greener. This station, designed by Sweet Sparkman Architects, is just one example of Sarasota making good on that commitment—seven county buildings have already been LEED certified, and there are more on the way. Bill Hoag, Sarasota County’s assistant fire chief, goes through the ins and outs of this environmentally friendly flagship fire station.
Fire Station No. 1 is built to withstand Category 4 hurricanes, which can blast buildings with wind gusts up to 140 miles per hour. Even the large doors of the bay, which feature windows to let plenty of natural light into the space, will hold up against this kind of weather. “A lot of older facilities aren’t hurricane hardened,” Hoag says. “Now, anytime we build a new fire station, we build them to those specifications.” Not only does this guarantee the building at least its 50-year life, it allows the firefighters do their job when they’re needed most. “It gives us the ability to be there after a storm and, after everything calms down, go back out into the field,” he says.
The main challenge in fire-station design is that they are 24/7 facilities used in unique ways. This is the only municipal building in Sarasota County where the employees sleep, shower, shave, and cook their meals together—it’s basically a home away from home for the firefighters. And as with all family-style environments, remembering to turn the lights off tends to be an issue. “When I was a station lieutenant, I was kind of a tyrant about the lights,” Hoag says. In Fire Station No. 1, occupancy sensors give the station lieutenant a break and decrease overall energy consumption.
The durable concrete floors of the bay require a lot of water for a full scrub-down, but the station has four on-site cistern barrels that capture more than 240,000 gallons of rainwater each year, reducing or completely eliminating municipal water use during the firefighters’ regular Saturday cleanings. In the first year, water from the cisterns was used to establish the Florida-friendly landscaping on-site; now the water is used to top off the fire-truck tanks after putting out small fires around the community.
Certification LEED Silver
Site Remediated contaminated site, access to transit, bicycle storage and changing rooms
Materials Concrete flooring, high albedo roof, 85% construction waste diversion rate, recycled materials, FSC-certified wood
Water Low-flow fixtures, rainwater harvesting system for cleaning, fire truck tanks, and irrigation
Energy Energy-efficient outdoor lighting, occupancy sensors for indoor lighting
Landscape Stormwater runoff management using bioswales, water-efficient landscaping
The fire station’s brick exterior is part of a cavity wall, behind which lies a skeleton of masonry and metal trusses. The heightened insulation is one of the biggest improvements over the inefficient metal fire stations of the old days. “We used a lot of air-conditioning to cool the older, metal buildings,” Hoag says. Today, Fire Station No. 1’s variable air-handling system also helps cut down on energy costs. It includes outside air pretreatment and air exchange, which takes the hot Floridian air, removes the humidity, cools it slightly, and then transfers the lighter load into the conditioning system.
One of the biggest challenges of the project was how to deal with runoff. The solution? Vegetated bioswales, a kind of obstacle course for water to run as it sheds pollutants. “It was such a tight site,” says Kim Humphrey, vertical project manager with Sarasota County’s Public Works Department. “We had to mitigate storm water as part of our site development, and the bioswale environment was a very creative way to do it.”