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A Green Firehouse

The county’s second green fire station is scheduled to be completed by December.

Over the past few years, open acres of fields and undeveloped land have given way to rows of single family homes and townhouse communities in Lorton and Fairfax Station. With that kind of population boom, more public services will be needed.

In order to better serve the residents of that area, the Fairfax County Department of Fire and Rescue is in the process of constructing a new fire station, Crosspointe Fire Station Number 41, at the corner of Hampton Road and Route 123.

“This area doesn’t have as many hydrants as the rest of the county,” said Dan Schmidt, a public information officer for the Fire and Rescue Department. “The nearest ones in the southern part of the county are in Clifton.”

The new station, expected to be complete by late December, will serve the Lorton and Fairfax Station areas, said Edie Beitzel, a spokeswoman for the Fire and Rescue Department.

“This station will serve the area between Fairview and the Occoquan River” just past the new Frederick P. Griffith, Jr. Water Treatment Plant, she said.

Crosspointe, named for one of the first communities built in the area, is the second station in Fairfax County to be built using LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), or low impact development, regulations. The first one, in Fairfax near Fair Lakes, opened earlier this summer.

In order to be considered a green building, special consideration was given to various features of the station, starting with the heating and air conditioning units installed on the roof of the building, which will use radiant heat from the sun to regulate the temperature inside. Inside, recycled materials will be used in the floor and cabinetry of the station, Schmidt said.

“We’ll be saving energy by using materials that were made close by,” Schmidt said. “Using glass panels on the ceilings will help us get the best energy efficiency we can and will bring in lots of daylight,” he said.

Beitzel said that building a “green” fire station doesn’t really require any special tools or building methods, but rather a more selective process in picking the materials that construct the station.

“For the floors in the truck bays, we’re going to use ceramic tiles made from recycled materials including airplane windshields,” she said.

“The floors in the kitchen and locker rooms will be made of bamboo and cork and the cabinets will be made of wheat,” Schmidt said.

While the most recent fire station completed, another green station built in Fairfax, was built to be about 21,000 square feet, the Crosspointe station will only measure about 14,000 square feet, Beitzel said. Up to 17 firefighters will be in the station during each of three shifts, for a total of 51 firefighters who will call the station home.

Training sessions for new firefighters are offered several times throughout the year, Schmidt said, so when the Crosspointe station is ready to open, a newly-trained staff will be ready and waiting to step into their jobs.

Additionally, the station will include four bays for trucks and a tanker instead of five, Schmidt said.

“This is a really neat looking building, there’s a lot of interesting angles to it,” Beitzel said.

At last November’s groundbreaking, the initial completion date for the fire station was this summer, but a series of rain delays has pushed the deadline to late December, she said.

“You have no idea what kind of mud we had here during those storms in July,” Beitzel said. Faced with intense heat in the past week, the construction workers on the site have been allowed to start working “as soon as it’s light enough out, usually by 5 a.m., so they can go home before it gets too hot,” she said.

With beads of sweat on his forehead at 10:30 a.m., Schmidt said it was “those of us who work in an air conditioned office” who feel the strain of working in the heat a little more than the workers exposed to the elements.

Both Schmidt and Beitzel said the contractor, American Property Company, and Samaha Associates, the architect for the Crosspointe Fire Station, have been “enthusiastic” about working on a green fire station.

“They’ve been very motivated to build a green fire station from the beginning and we’re really happy that they are,” Schmidt said.

Tom Lee, project manager for the fire station from Samaha Associates, the architect on the Crosspointe project, said the work is going along smoothly.

"The contractor is doing a good job and it looks like we'll be moving forward toward finishing it by the end of the year," Lee said.

Working on a green-designed building is not much different from a traditional structure, Lee said.

"It's more about the reflectivity of the roof, the amount of glass used, the orientation of the building, which is outlined in the blueprints," he said. "The difficult part is that the fire stations in Fairfax County have so much going on in them, with carbon monoxide removal systems and other technology."

By utilizing green building practices, Fairfax County is "taking a leadership role" on environmental issues, said Stella Koch, chair of the Fairfax County Environmental Quality Advisory Council.

"Anytime anyone attempts to do green construction, no matter how far they get, it's better than not trying at all," Koch said.

Using bamboo and cork in the flooring, as opposed to "100 year old oak trees," incorporates a renewable resource, Koch said, which is to applauded.

"I'm so pleased Fairfax County is doing things like this," she said. "Green buildings should reduce the amount of energy consumption, maybe reduce the amount of runoff and promote using renewable resources. To whatever degree they do that, it's a good thing."