A Station You Can Come Home To

A Station You Can Come Home To

Maryland’s Prince Frederick Volunteer Rescue Squad was established in 1965. For its first six years, the squad operated out of a single bay in the Prince Frederick Volunteer Fire Department. In 1971 a three-bay pre-engineered metal building was constructed on a donated piece of land, and the squad established its physical presence in Prince Frederick. It has now been operating from this location for over 46 years.

In 1966, the squad’s first full year of operation, it received 256 calls. Today the Prince Frederick Volunteer Rescue Squad fields over 2,500 calls a year with a team of 50 volunteer EMTs and a fleet of three ambulances. Its emergency medical technicians generously donate their time and expertise to respond to medical emergencies in their community. Because it’s difficult today to find volunteers and foster long-lasting participation, it’s a priority for the squad that its building’s design celebrates the skills and sacrifices of these members and creates an environment that encourages camaraderie, community involvement and cultivation of a new cohort of volunteers. 

In 2013 the Calvert County Board of County Commissioners published a comprehensive report that detailed the community’s planned growth. Phase one of the plan included expansion of the town center, including Calvert Memorial Hospital, senior citizen communities, single-family residential communities and employment centers. As the area population grows, and with it the number of emergency calls, the squad’s need for a facility capable of meeting its community’s needs is critical.

With this growth, then, will come a new headquarters for the Prince Frederick Volunteer Rescue Squad.

Station Build

Construction on the squad’s new 25,000-square-foot facility will begin in August 2017, and it’s scheduled to open in October 2018. Architectural, structural and civil engineering design services will come from Whitney Bailey Cox & Magnani LLC; mechanical, electrical and plumbing engineering design services via Gipe Associates Inc. The architectural design team consisted of Stephen Burdette, Dina Markakis and Joseph Moyer.

Per its plans, the new HQ will differ from common rescue squad headquarters in a number of ways. Situated on Solomons Island Road, an important artery that serves as two state highways (Maryland Routes 2 and 4), the building has a street-facing side and non-street-facing side but notably not a front and back.

The east side of the building, with direct access via traffic signal onto Solomons Island Road, is optimized to create an uninterrupted path for ambulances to access the road. The pedestrian entrance, along with staff and visitor parking, is on the west side. Signage on the east and west sides of the building creates a distinct public presence, and its brick exterior echoes the nearby municipal buildings of Calvert County. 

To comply with Maryland’s stormwater management criteria, the building had to sit within the footprint of the existing building. As a result, the depth in the façade is created not by an oscillating footprint, but projections of varying depth applied to a flat façade. A canopy extends diagonally eight feet out on the west and east sides, creating an extended bay and a feature that visually pulls a viewer in. The contemporary bay window on the street-facing side serves the same purpose. Waiting for calls, EMTs may occupy the break room behind the bay window and be visible to the outside. 

The eight-foot operable casement windows in the upstairs offices and long expanses of glass indicate the accessibility of the EMTs to the public as well as provide ample natural light and air inside the building. Wood floors and a cloud ceiling in the break room extend visually into the siding and soffit of the bay window, creating a reciprocal relationship between the EMT and the exterior viewer; as the EMT is drawn to the outside environment, the viewer is pulled in. At night the illuminated interior spaces and signage become a beacon of the Prince Frederick Volunteer Rescue Squad’s presence within and commitment to its community. 

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Accessibility and Aesthetics

Pedestrians enter the building on the west, with immediate access to the elevator and main stairs. The adjacent equipment bays can accommodate nine ambulances and are designed with clearances to house fire engines when necessary. Adjacent rooms include a watch room, lounge, laundry facilities, a commercial kitchen with rolling counter door for bay access and ample storage for events. 

With constantly evolving technology, techniques, drills and courses, it is important that EMTs stay up to date on practices and procedures. A large training room on the second floor was designed to allow for interactive presentations as well as physical demonstrations.

Two cloud ceilings with exposed structures on the perimeter create divided spaces, and an acoustical folding partition allows for classes to occur simultaneously if necessary. A kitchen is located adjacent to the training room and break room to easily provide meals for visitors. The EMTs at the Prince Frederick Volunteer Rescue Squad understand that their jobs are not only responsive but preventive; having courses at this facility encourages the public to interact with their community EMTs and ultimately encourages visitors to become part of the squad. 

Calvert County is fortunate to have a lush and thriving collection of wetlands, forest and farmland protected by the American Chestnut Land Trust. The Prince Frederick Volunteer Rescue Squad is located east of Battle Creek and west of Parkers Creek, a location known as the “crown jewel” of the land trust and noted as “one of the most ecologically valuable sub-estuaries in the Chesapeake Bay watershed and the least disturbed on Maryland’s western shore” by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

The rescue squad’s interior spaces take advantage of these ancient forest vistas. The contemporary bay window of the break room frames the magnificent collection of Parkers Creek treetops and the training room’s nine-foot windows with operable shades look toward Battle Creek. In this manner, occupants are connected with their picturesque environment, making the training room suitable not only for instructional sessions but also for community events and fundraising activities. 

Intelligent Design

Due to the potential various activities in the training space above the apparatus bays, the building was designed to mitigate vibrations. A thicker composite slab/steel beam structure in this area varies from the thinner slab on steel joists in the other second-floor areas of the structure. To establish open and unobstructed apparatus bays, steel W-shape girders were utilized to support a 60-foot span over the apparatus bay. The lateral-load-resisting system consists of steel moment frames and braced frames, with a moment frame transferred into the floor diaphragm in the second-floor framing above the apparatus bays. This complies with seismic design requirements.

Lighting design also took into consideration various activities that may occur and times of day. Sustainable electrical design features include highly efficient LED lighting, vacancy and occupancy sensors to automatically turn off lighting in unused spaces, light sensors to dim select fixtures when sunlight illuminates spaces, and light sensors to automatically control site lighting in response to ambient light levels. 

The MEP (mechanical, electrical and plumbing) design focuses on sustainable features that include variable-volume air-handling units with total (latent and sensible) energy recovery wheels, hot-gas reheat, air-side economizer cycle, supply air temperature reset, and variable frequency drives on supply and relief fans. For units serving large-occupancy areas, demand-controlled ventilation is utilized using space CO2 sensors with supply and relief air-measuring stations to supply only the required amount of ventilation air while maintaining building pressure. Sustainable design features include a high-efficiency condensing boiler with hot-water temperature reset for building hot water, variable-frequency drives for all pumps, electronically commutated motors (ECMs) for all fans, and enhanced energy management through a direct digital control system. Low-flow fixtures maximize water conservation. Amenities include bunk rooms with adjacent lounge and kitchenette and separate shower areas in the private bunk-room bathrooms. It was important the design be sensitive to occupants who may spend days at a time in the facility.

The Prince Frederick Volunteer Rescue Squad is not simply a building but a home to a collection of men and women who generously give their time to the community. This building will serve the existing squad and hopefully help foster relationships with other individuals who are passionate about saving lives and serving their community.  

Stephen Burdette, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP BD+C, is vice president of architecture at Whitney Bailey Cox & Magnani LLC.

Dina Markakis, Assoc. AIA, CDT, is an associate architect at Whitney Bailey Cox & Magnani LLC.  

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