In 2008, Galveston Fire and Rescue #4 was demolished after the effects of Hurricane Ike devastated the building and much of the island. Like many buildings on the island, it became part of the landfill. The increased number of storm occurrences in the Gulf of Mexico demands an architectural solution for emergency facilities that can survive such an event.
The design concept for the Galveston Fire Station #4—also known as the “Fire | Beach House” for it’s proximity to the Gulf beach—responds with an elevated command and living quarters combined with observational decks positioned above a sacrificial utility base. A hardened bunker-type vertical element anchors the structure as well as houses utilities and support functions where the building engages the ground. Structurally, this element acts as a dampening structure to limit torsional stress to the building as it withstands the hurricane forces of wind and water. The emergency generator is secured within this bunker and elevated above the anticipated flood line. The utility bays are clad in a lightweight yet impact resistant acrylic skin, which is seen as a material concession in the event of storm surge disaster. The system is designed to release once the horizontal forces have reached 35 PSF, allowing for a structural relief at the base. The apparatus bay, in turn, acts as a bypass for the rising waters, relieving structural hydrodynamic pressure. The overall strategy allows for reuse of the facility with minimal rebuild or demotion in the event of another disaster.
Beyond serving the official needs of a fire house, the living quarters create safe and relaxing environment, giving service men and women a place of respite between calls.