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Historical neighborhoods surrounding the new University City Firehouse set the tone for the structure’s design.
Historical neighborhoods surrounding the new University City Firehouse set the tone for the structure’s design.
January 26, 2016 7:00 AM CST

Masonry responds

Fire departments need new houses

By

Ask anyone involved in building a firehouse, “What is your top choice for construction material?” The unanimous answer is “masonry” — for a variety of reasons. The modern firehouse provides more than an oversized garage and bunkhouse. It is a disaster relief center — built to withstand earthquakes and storms. It is a maintenance, training and fitness center where firefighters keep their gear, minds and bodies ready for rapid response. It is a community institution, built to provide an aesthetically pleasing and lasting structure to serve its citizens for generations.

“Construction requirements for a firehouse are more stringent on the structural aspects than many other type of buildings,” said Mark Kamp, President of Wachter, Inc., general contractor on the new University City firehouse. While brick veneer is a popular finish on all of the new firehouses featured, the heavy-duty construction behind the brick is an important feature few see. “If an earthquake hits here, it’s constructed to withstand the force, said Kevin Freeman, Project Manager for Swanson Masonry. “Not only is this building safe, it is also architecturally pleasing for the community,” said David Crismon, University City’s Assistant Fire Chief.

The Riverview Firehouse, completed in 2011, is the newest addition to the riverview fire protection district. The original 1950’s era firehouse was torn down and replaced by a modern brick structure that blends well with the residential community surrounding it.
The Riverview Firehouse, completed in 2011, is the newest addition to the riverview fire protection district. The original 1950’s era firehouse was torn down and replaced by a modern brick structure that blends well with the residential community surrounding it.

Riverview Fire Protection District

Firehouses come in a variety of sizes. The University City and O’Fallon, IL firehouses feature engine houses with five bay doors. The newest house in the Riverview Fire Protection District features a two bay engine house. Modern fire trucks outgrew the space offered by the original house that served for 60 years. The new firehouse may have increased in size, but the building lot did not, making for a tight job site. “Patrico Masonry did everything in a timely manner, despite the tight site constraints,” said Dino Pappas, Project Manager for United Construction. “This is a completely watertight building,” said Vince Patrico. Fire Chief Joe Bommarito added, “This is a beautiful building. The fire department wanted a new brick building that would match the surrounding neighborhoods. We wanted to visually blend with the community, which we were able to accomplish.”

Fire Chief Brent Saunders has high praise for his department’s new home.
Fire Chief Brent Saunders has high praise for his department’s new home.

Fire/EMS Headquarters

“We want to make these buildings long lasting with little maintenance,” said architect Jeff Williams, of Archimages. “That is why we use brick and concrete block. The interior block is very resistant to the ravages of water.” While the exterior’s creative combination of brick, block and cast stone present a solid face to the community, the heavy duty construction of the block interior classify the building as a FEMA rated storm shelter. Grant Masonry Contracting constructed both the new Fire/EMS Headquarters and a headquarters and garage for the city’s Parks Department’s maintenance equipment. Concentrating on lasting durability did not distract the construction team from the mission of creating a visually stunning building. “This building has a lot of trim pieces and capstone,” said Bill Grant, of Grant Masonry Contracting. “There were a lot of different materials used here to achieve the look the architect wanted.”

Fire Chief Brent Saunders has high praise for his department’s new home. “The inner portion of the building’s masonry construction allowed us to construct a FEMA rated storm shelter. The design of the building incorporating masonry was economical and delivers a sound structure for decades into the future,” said Saunders.

The new brick and cast stone addition of two equipment bays to the Robertson Firehouse blends seamlessly with the original building.
The new brick and cast stone addition of two equipment bays to the Robertson Firehouse blends seamlessly with the original building.

Robertson Firehouse #2

The challenge of melding a new brick building with an existing neighborhood involves an approximation of various colors and styles. However, the challenge of blending a new addition on to an established firehouse of brick and cast stone is an exercise in precision. This was the situation facing the team involved in the addition to Firehouse #2 in the Robertson Fire Protection District in northwest Saint Louis County. The brick veneer, mortar and precast banding had to match the color of an established structure. “The biggest trick was to match the cast stone on the banding,” said Brian Mason, Project Manager for FGM Architects. “Caliber Cast Stone gave us different mixes and different samples to match against the original. When you look at the building, it is seamless. Patrico Masonry did a great job on the construction.”


About the Author

The Masonry Institute of St. Louis is a promotional organization that serves as an educational and informational resource on masonry design and construction on behalf of the Mason Contractors Association-St. Louis and Bricklayers' Union Local No. 1 of Missouri. For more information, please visit www.masonrystl.org.

Photos by Michael DeFilippo.

 

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