The City of Austin sought to provide new Fire and EMS stations to underserved and growing communities in and around Austin.
Studio Balcones has an ongoing, collaborative contract with the City of Austin to design the landscapes at 5 new Fire and EMS Stations within the city’s jurisdiction: Del Valle Fire 50 / EMS 31, Travis Country Fire 51 / EMS 40, Goodnight Ranch Fire 53/ EMS 42, Davenport Fire 60/ EMS 45, and Canyon Creek Fire and APD Substation. The establishment of these stations is part of a broader effort by the City of Austin to provide new Fire and EMS stations to underserved and growing communities in and around Austin.
The city provided design guidelines for the collection of stations that were adopted to ensure a uniform quality of design and cohesive design language across the projects. However, the diverse site ecological contexts required adapting the guidelines to meet each of the stations existing conditions. The designs at each site work to marry the necessary components of emergency services with the functional and aesthetic conditions that arise from the station also serving as living and recreational space for the Fire and EMS crews.
The Del Valle site has use restrictions due to the property being divided in half by overhead transformer lines, and the clayey soils on site which present specific drainage needs. Travis County is a previously developed site within the Edwards Aquifer recharge zone, in need of soil remediation and has strict impervious cover limitations. Davenport’s compact site is a steep grade change and less than 5” of topsoil, making planting and drainage challenging. Goodnight Ranch is part of a planned new development and the site is a blank slate. Lastly, Canyon Creek is unique from all the other sites, it is the largest site with ecological value featuring a juniper-oak savannah. Studio Balcones works to blend the Fire/EMS stations with their specific contexts, unique characteristics and challenges.
Along with the various opportunities and constraints these sites provide, the varying property sizes and their ecological location generate the unique design qualities of these fire/EMS stations. The properties range from 1.5 to 19 acres, and the site design requirements vary significantly as a result. One station needs tight limits of construction for the required preservation of natural area, while others are constrained to fit all the program on-site. The sites are distributed throughout the Blackland Prairies and Edwards Plateau ecoregions. The Blackland Prairie has a more leveled ground plane and clayey soil, dominated by its unique grassland prairie. The Edwards Plateau has a hillier topography with shallow to moderately deep soil profiles, dominated by juniper-oak savanna and mesquite-oak savanna. These two ecoregions share some of their native plant species but have drastically different functions and aesthetics.
These designs work to marry the necessary components of emergency services with the functional and aesthetic conditions that arise from the stations also serving as living and training space for the Fire and EMS crews. Per COA directive, all the projects meet Austin Energy Green Building (AEGB) 3-Star rating, or LEED Silver rating.
The sites are a combination of greenfields and previously developed land all requiring various site-specific design responses. Major components of that are integrated into all the designs include open spaces for crew training, recreation, and gatherings, low maintenance planting, tree plantings, as well as on-site water quality treatment. The plant palettes are composed of predominantly native plant material to reduce long term maintenance and irrigation. Plantings around the stations serve a dual purpose of creating a vibrant and interesting space with seasonal interest and to meet code and LEED requirements.
On all stations, Studio Balcones work includes: Landscape Architecture and Project Management overseeing all phases of design including Schematic Design, Design Development, Construction Documents and Construction Observation.