March 6, 2018
SAN RAFAEL, Calif. – “We have completed over 24 stations, but we’ve just never worked on four all at the same time,” says Bob Alten of the projects his firm is currently handling. Those projects include the San Rafael Fire Department stations 52 and 57, San Francisco station 5, as well as the San Rafael public safety center, which will include fire, police and administrative spaces. Alten Construction slates that the fire stations will be completed in 2018 while the public safety center is anticipated to open in 2020.
“It’s just coincidental timing,” says Alten. “They’ve been needed for a while. Thanks to the public, they voted on it.”
During its 23-year history, Alten Construction, which offers a full range of construction services specializing in public works facilities, has managed more than a dozen fire station projects. That history allows the firm to build efficient, durable, comfortable stations that meet the needs of the firefighters, with the foresight to avoid costly errors.
“Fire stations are not only about aesthetics but function, as far as getting the trucks in and out and how things are placed so they can get to them quickly,” says Eric Onick, a senior project manager at Alten Construction. “It is just experience. When you do a couple, you run into the same kind of issues.”
The plans now dictate an eight-inch driveway with rebar reinforcement, in order to withstand the weight of the fire trucks over a long period of time. “Otherwise, you’ve got this brand-new thing you’re going to have to replace in a year,” says Onick.
Each station will accommodate a team of firefighters working 24-hour shifts, with a layout that allows for easy access to apparatus bay, where trucks and equipment are housed. Among the state-of-the-art features incorporated into the design are an automatic ventilation system prevents buildup of diesel exhaust in the apparatus bay and fast-opening bi-fold garage doors so that the trucks can depart as quickly as possible.
San Rafael station 52 will also include a new four-story training tower.
The stations must take into account the firefighters’ comfort, too, incorporating gyms, dorms, offices and carefully designed kitchens with high-quality, easy-to-clean designs. “We build a lot of public buildings,” says Alten, “and firemen take care of their station like it’s their own home.”
Ultimately, Alten emphasizes that the stations are “servants to the people.” In addition to their vital role in public safety, they represent the community as a whole and act as a space for people to come together. Station 57, which is located across the street from the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Marin County Civic Center, even includes design elements that complement and pay tribute to the famed structure and allow it to be viewed from inside the station.
“We started our business in San Rafael, and we live in San Rafael. We feel like we’re doing something for the community and our own friends and family,” says Alten. “This is our home.”