Fire stations of the world: Striking red Fire Station Wilrijk in Antwerp, Belgium, saves energy and lives
In the context of a general redeployment of its fire stations, Belgium’s Antwerp Fire Department inaugurated a new fire station in its Wilrijk district, which was designed by Dutch firm Happel Cornelisse Verhoeven. The new three-storey fire station is a sustainable building, with optimal use of renewable energy thanks to a solar boiler, heat pump, solar panels on the roof and various techniques to collect rain and fire extinguishing water. Due to its nature, moisture-regulating effect, the cross-layer timber construction has a positive impact on the indoor climate and the energy consumption, while the eye-catching red brick on the outside contrasts with wood and concrete on the inside. Fire Station Wilrijk, which is manned 24/7 by successive shifts, is located in a busy area south of Antwerp and its exterior sports vibrant red glazed brick and simple white lettering. Inside, the ground floor contains a large double-height engine bay for the fire apparatus and assorted fire fighting equipment and a workshop. Situated upstairs is an office along with the residential area for the fire fighters, which consists of an outdoor terrace area, living space, sleeping quarters, a gym as well as a kitchen and dining area. A roof tower was incorporated on the corner of building, accommodating the technical room.
Structurally, there's a bit more to the fire station than appears at first glance. The building consists of concrete on the lower level, with the upper level made up of cross-laminated timber (CLT). Both are then finished in the glazed brick to lend it a uniform exterior appearance. Happel Cornelisse Verhoeven was commissioned by AG Vespa to design a building on the Gaston Fabrélaan, a traffic corner, south of the city. The building consists of a hybrid supporting structure with a central staircase that connects the floors and ensures smooth handling during an intervention-call. The ground floor with machine bay and workspaces has been robustly worked out in concrete due to its functionality. The upper floors for offices and living area are made of cross-layer timber (CLT) that ensures a more domestic feeling.
“The upper floors are made of CLT to give the living spaces a more domestic quality,” the firm told us. “The biggest challenge in the project was the coordination between the concrete construction of the depot and the CLT construction of the office and residential floor above. A hybrid concept in which all floor and wall partitions were prefabricated and assembled on location.”
The building generates its own energy, thanks to a solar boiler, a heat pump and rooftop solar panels. The fire station's grid-based electricity use is reduced by a solar panel array and rainwater is also collected to be used for both flushing the toilets and for the fire fighters to carry out training exercises.
The colour of these bricks is emphasised by the use of vertical piers and bright white grout. According to Happel Cornelisse Verhoeven, the aim was to make an ‘architecture parlante’, a type of building where the architectural form explains the structure's function.
Brandweerzone Antwerpen, the Antwerp Fire and Rescue Service, is a professional fire corps that operates in the city of Antwerp and the surrounding area. Antwerp is a city in Belgium and the capital of Antwerp province in the Flemish Region. With a population of 520 504, it is the most populous city in Belgium and with a metropolitan population of around 1 200 000 people, it is the second largest metropolitan region after Brussels. The overall protection area is more than 260km².
The Antwerp Fire and Rescue Service needed an alarm system that can visualise the type of emergency as well as provides a stable and reliable content. With partner Centomedia’s solution built on LG webOS platform, the content was delivered seamlessly on LG digital signage. See video.
Sources: Happel Cornelisse Verhoeven, De Zeen, Maritime Incident Response Groups (MIRG)
Photographs: Karin Borghouts