The decision to renovate a 70-year-old facility into a state-of-the-art fire headquarters was not made lightly. But it was a decision that resulted in a 2012 Station Style gold award in the renovation category from the Niskayuna (N.Y.) Fire District No. 1/Grand Boulevard Fire Company.
“Incorporating a 70-year-old existing facility into a new state-of-the-art fire station is never an off-the-shelf, straight-forward endeavor, particularly on a 1-acre site,” said architect David Pacheco of Pacheco Ross Architects, PC. “The challenge was to find the sweet spot of functionality, aesthetics, sustainability, demolition, conservation and creation.”
The combination department spent countless hours in 2010 performing one-on-one time and community outreach, let by architect which resulted in voters' overwhelming approval of a bond referendum — despite the recession.
"Never assume you know what the public thinks of your department and your proposed project," Pacheco said. "You need to get out of the firehouse and actively engage your community in serious discussions about what you do, your mission, your needs and the future. Listen carefully to the feedback and use that information to help shape your project.”
That project included new apparatus bays, administrative and support offices, training rooms, as well as living areas for paid and volunteer firefighters. The new facility integrated many of the existing building's materials, including bricks, maple floors and salvaged doors. But the sustainable design placed special emphasis on energy efficiency, LED and lighting management, individual zone controls and modulated air. There is additional insulation and in-floor radiant heat, with 98%-efficient, tankless boilers for the bays.
“Hard lessons are never pleasant when you are in their midst; however, the Failure Mode and Effects Analysis process was truly transformational," Pacheco said. "We learned that the reason for the first project’s failure was not about cost, as many originally thought, but rather communication, education and preserving history.”
In recognition of the positive community reaction and support of the new fire station, the fire department bestowed honorary department memberships on PRA team members David and Katrina Pacheco.
“We are genuinely humbled,” Pacheco said.