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The second project assigned by Steve Martens in the fall of 2009 was the Firehouse. Each student was assigned a site in a local medium-sized community. In the scenario, these towns were transitioning to a full-time professional fire department and needed new facilities to accommodate the new demand. I was assigned New Ulm, MN, a town in the south-central part of the state.

The main portion of the design is a two-story hall with living spaces above and apparatus room below. There is also a small adjacent space for community or office use as well as a hose tower. The first and second floors use different structural arrangements: the first is a steel and masonry hybrid while the second is mostly steel. The apparatus room in therefore much heavier while the living spaces are light and airy by comparison. The design calls for individual sleeping dorms rather than the typical common rooms of most firehouses. The design is also solar-oriented; dorm windows that face southeast are open but southwest-facing windows use Trombe walls to control temperature swings.

I really enjoyed this project, but I’ve always been bothered by the fact that I never did a computer rendering nor build a full model. Instead, I invested that time in a large-scale construction model. The model featured only one corner of the design but was extremely detailed in terms of construction and material use, which, like in the Satellite School, was encouraged by the professor.

The design incorporates a number of basic passive strategies which were being taught concurrently in Passive Systems class. But the most refreshing part of the design is the radically different quality of spaces between the floors, an idea that was toyed with in the Satellite School but is fully developed here.

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  • For ARCH 371

  • Date Fall 2009

  • Type firehouse, New Ulm, construction, structural arrangement, Trombe wall

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