Thru the Architect’s Eyes

Thru the Architect’s Eyes


Fire House No. 5, Manhassett-Lakeville, N. Y.

An Analysis of Modern Fire Station Design —

THE MANHASSET-LAKEVILLE Fire House No. 5 represents a prototype in fire system design. It is a fire house and a civic building, proud of its duty and obligation to protect the surrounding community. As such, this building stands forth uncamouflaged as an English-style country house or an industrial garage. The contemporary structure reveals to the passing taxpayer its charge of modern equipment in full battle dress.

No. 5 house serves a 55-man volunteer fire company with three pieces of equipment consisting of two 750-gallon pumpers and an 85-foot aerial. The program of required spaces given to the architects was as follows: Equipment room with three bays each 15 feet wide; officer’s room; central alarm phone booth; company ready room; company meeting room; game room; small community meeting room; kitchen for rooms; large assembly hall for entire department; utilities to serve the area.

These areas totaled approximately 9,900 square feet on a 14,800-square foot plot, subject to the usual setback of side yard regulations. The project resolved itself into a partial two-story structure.

Equipment and service rooms: The equipment room with its heavy truck loads and clear spans is built on a reinforced concrete slab on grade with a terrazzo floor finish. The service rooms are located at the rear of the truck room floor and arranged to permit immediate access to apparatus when alarm sounds.

Several sets of doors equipped with panic-bolt mechanisms are provided in these rooms to facilitate firemen trafficflow in the direction of truck travel. The rooms open with large glass panels to the equipment room, providing a continuous and satisfying view of the company’s prized equipment. These rooms, the company meeting room, ready room and game room, are expandable through the use of folding doors, into one large meeting area. They cluster around a kitchen (see first floor plan) which is also provided with a pass-through to the rear yard and is strategically located for ease of service.

Arranged at the side of the equipment room are the following facilities: The emergency entrance which is adjacent to a master throw switch controlling the interior lighting; the specially soundinsulated phone booth connected to central headquarters, near the activators for the glass-paneled mechanically-operated overhead doors; the officer’s room, soundproofed behind a large glass interior picture window, and men’s and women’s toilets so located as to serve both the main lobby and the equipment room.

The equipment room boasts some unique features. Its floor level is 4 inches lower than the rest of the building. The reason is two-fold: This change of level prevents water used in washing the equipment from leaking over door saddles into either the side or rear rooms. It also retains large quantities of carbon monoxide deposited by the engines which are frequently run indoors. Carbon monoxide, a heavy gas, settles into the 4-inch depressed floor level from which it is withdrawn by strategically placed exhaust ducts before infiltrating the whole station.

All equipment room walls are constructed of a masonry block to which a waterproof and stainproof plastic surface has been fused. This material has proved to be equal to ceramic-faced block and much more economical. In addition, it forms a structural bearing wall. A recess was designed to accommodate racks for a 1 1/2-inch hose for filling the pumper and for a standard 3/4-inch garden hose for general wash-down purposes. This simple and inexpensive installation alleviates the usual process of dragging the hose from a storage room and pulling a still draining hose over dry floors.

Public entry and community meeting rooms: Under a gracefully curved arch and covered pathway is the public entry. It is furnished with a terrazzo floor inlaid with the company’s emblem in contrasting colors. Interior walls are of brick and vinyl plastic. The lobby is further graced with a “floating” staircase of precast terrazzo visible through an exterior glass and aluminum wall which extends two stories from grade to roof.

In the midst of all this practicality, the architects have introduced two bits of nostalgia: The original steel triangle alarm built into the support of the arched entry canopy and the obsolete sliding pole mounted in the two-story glassed-in stair well between the stair handrails.

The entry area leads to the aforementioned public rest rooms, company ready and meeting rooms and a community meeting room equipped with its own small built-in kitchenette. The farsighted commissioners, Eden, Hamell and Enzel of the Manhasset-Lakeville Water District included this meeting room for the convenience of the taxpayers of the community. They recognized the importance of identifying the fire station as a civicstructure capable of a dual role—fire station and community center.

Second floor: A second floor was required to serve the full-assembled department of officers and men for official and social functions. For this purpose, a 40 by 48foot assembly room with a 12-foot ceiling was designed. At the far end of the hall is a paneled wall background for a future stage or rostrum. At the near end, is a large kitchen, storage room and dumbwaiter. The storage room opens to the assembly room through a 12-foot folding door. This exposes the full storage room to the large area and permits seats assembled on dollies to be wheeled out with a minimum of effort. The kitchen is fitted with commercial-type fixtures to enable a large group of people to be efficiently served. Service is through a pass-through protected by a rolling steel shutter and fusible link.

First floor plan

Maintenance considerations

In the design and planning of all the areas which are discussed here, prime consideration was given to ease of maintenance and permanence of materials selected. All walls and floors exposed to moisture and water were constructed of terrazzo, tile or plastic-faced masonry. Plaster surfaces were covered in new vinyl wall coverings resistant to stains and abrasions. They are beautiful in texture and color and yet are economical in their elimination of all future painting requirements.

All metal surfaces are aluminum, specially treated to resist weather and soiling. Variety in wall treatments was provided by the introduction into the interior of the same face brick used on the exterior, along with floor-to-ceiling hardwood paneling in specific areas such as the game room and the assembly hall. Floor finishes consist of a vinyl tile with a terrazzo spatter finish which requires no waxing and which shows no chair and table leg marks.

There is special greaseproof tile in the the kitchen areas; ceramic tile in toilets; terrazzo in public halls and entries. A super-hard varnish finish of the type commonly used on basketball courts is employed to finish the maple hardwood floor in the large assembly room. All counters and wall areas adjacent to kitchen sinks have liberal coverage of formica.

On the exterior of the building the same careful planning is evident. The brownish smooth-faced brick is resistant to stains and industrial gases. It is selfcleaning because of its glazed finish. The brick is contrasted with light colored Crab Orchard stone veneer.

Other materials used here are glass and aluminum, both of which require little care. Exterior walks and patios are made of concrete with a slip-proof aggregate and integral color added.

Color used widely

In the selection of all interior and exterior colors, the use of contrasting shades for the prevention of accidents and ease of maintenance was studied. At changes in level such as the depressed apparatus room floor, bands of a different color of terrazzo are inlaid.

Emergency exit doors contrast with surrounding walls to facilitate identification and mark exit routes. The color palette was selected for this structure not only for both decorative and aesthetic satisfaction but also for practical considerations.

The walls of the equipment room are a speckled dark green on a light green plastic background which conceals stains and grime more effectively than a flat ceramic color finish.


In planning the lighting of this fire station, the architects have attempted to minimize occupational hazards resulting from poor lighting by (1) providing sufficient flexibility of lighting to avoid excessive contrasts between indoor and outdoor lighting conditions and (2) avoiding brightness at ceilings and concentrating lighting at working levels where most needed.

A flexible system of light circuiting similar to the one adopted by tunnel authorities was provided for the 40 recessed room lights in the apparatus room. This allows brilliant artificial interior illumination in the rear to balance daylight at the front by permitting flexible switching of lights in a series of rows across the room. For nighttime use, 500-watt exterior floods are recessed into the faces of the walls over the truckrooin doors. These lights are designed for tunnel use. They throw a broad rectangular beam of light at a 30-degree angle to the concrete apron.

Intercommunication system

All the station rooms are equipped with -recessed loudspeakers. These are connected to a master panel in the ready room. The main assembly hall has a complete annunciator system.

Heating system

Heat is supplied by a forced hot water system. In this scheme, exterior anticipatory thermostats start a gas-fired hot water furnace before the interior thermostats require heat. This feature prevents what is referred to as a time lag in heating, or a waiting period for the building to warm up during a sudden cold wave. The building is zoned into different heating areas according to their respective requirements.

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Further refinements

As an integral part of a fire fighting machine, this building also has fire fighting and fire prevention equipment for itself. The excavated cellar and boiler room areas are isolated from the rest of the structure by reinforced concrete walls, ceiling slabs and fireproof door assemblies. Stair hall and public hall areas are of fireproof construction. All steel beams and girders supporting masonry walls are fireproofed in concrete. Kitchen equipment is protected by fireproof doors and walls.

Shafts capable of flue action have been firestopped.

Effective landscaping has been incorporated into the budget as an integral part of the building program.

Construction schedule and cost analysis

The following is an analysis of construction systems and materials and costs: Total area including cellar—9,923 square feet—117,440 cubic feet. Cost per square foot—$18.48; per cubic foot, $1.56.

Foundations: First floor, reinforced concrete.

Structural system: Second floor and roof, structural steel and wood joists.

Exterior walls: Brick and spectra glaze, waylite block and Crab Orchard stone veneer.

Interior walls: Gyp block, cinder block, wood studs.

Wall surfacing: Spectra glaze block, ceramic tile, plaster, vinyl plastic.

Floor surfacing: Terrazzo, ceramic tile, maple hardwood, greaseproof asphalt tile and vinyl tile.

Ceiling surfacing: Acoustical tile and plaster.

Roof surfacing: Twenty-year bonded marble chip and tar.

Waterproofing and Damproofing:

Troweled in “Dehydritine.”

Insulation: Four-inch aluminum foil and fiberglass combustion batts.

Windows and entries: Aluminum sliding sash.

Doors: Thin line aluminum and glass, , hollow metal interior doors and Kalemein self-closing fireproof doors.

Heating: Forced hot water, three zones with exterior and interior thermostatic controls.

Electrical: Four hundred ampere, 120/208 volts, three-phase, fourwire underground service with emergency generator; emergency entrance circuit; safety-type circuit panel board and circuit breakers.

ARCHITECTS AND ENGINEERS: Sirof, Rosenberg and Silvertsen, New York City.


GENERAL CONTRACTORS: Calsa Contracting Co.



ELECTRICAL: Wesley R. Simpson.

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