Award Winning Alabama Shelter Features Metal Building Solution By Tony Bouquot
Showcasing the durability, cost effectiveness and beauty of metal buildings, Birmingham’s Firehouse Shelter effectively doubled Fire- house Ministries’ capacity to service homeless men in Alabama. Acknowledged for its incorporation of green building elements, aes- thetics, user comfort, and project execution on a challenging building site, the community service project earned an Honorable Mention in Building Design+Construction’s 2020 Building Team Awards, a Metal Building Contractors and Erectors Association (MBCEA) 2021 Building of the Year award and a Varco Pruden (VP) 2021 Hall of Fame award. The Firehouse Story While the state of Alabama provides some programs for its homeless, it isn’t anywhere close to meeting the needs of this underserved popula- tion. Helping to fill this gap, the non-profit Firehouse Ministries has been supporting approximately 5,000 men per year with meals, show- ers, beds, and social services since 1983. However, one of the organization’s main facilities – an old fire station in Birmingham – was too small, running up against code issues and in desperate need of replacement. Funds were gathered to build a new $5.8 million facility, but as a non- for-profit, Firehouse Ministries was working with an extremely limited budget. In addition, the need to withstand anticipated heavy use made durability a major priority for the new facility. At the same time, the organization wanted to create a warm, welcoming environment, so the building had to offer aesthetics and amenities as well. Checking all three of these boxes, Poole & Company Architects se- lected a metal structure for the design-build project. “The owner needed durability, but didn’t want the building to look like a prison,” explains Craig Fowler, Dunn Building Company, Tennessee Valley Area Manager, Athens, Alabama. “We were able to achieve both goals by cladding this building with insulated metal panels (IMPs). The ribbed panels were turned to run horizontally, creating lines that are aesthetically pleasing, without sacrificing any of that durability.” The energy efficient IMPs seamlessly blend into a standing seam metal roof, gabled over the chapel, and slightly pitched in the other program areas. In addition to the horizontal ribbed panels, windows, storefronts and fire engine red trim deliver a comfortable, daylit space for the 28,000 sq. ft. structure.
Building Challenges Before opening its doors at 626 Second Ave., not far from the Univer- sity of Alabama at Birmingham, the project team had a few challenges to contend with. For starters, the community wasn’t thrilled with the idea of a homeless facility joining the neighborhood, particularly since the previous location required the men to line up outside at meal times and night check-ins. To help address this, Poole & Company Architects created a central courtyard where the men can comfortably wait within the confines and privacy of the facility. The landscaped courtyard turned out to be one of the centerpieces of the architectural design. As for the construction, the crew had little lay-down area as the build- ing butts up against the property line on three sides. “We had to schedule items to arrive on site as they were needed for installation and avoid having too much stored material,” relates Fowler. “We also stacked materials as we didn’t have the room to spread them out.” Birmingham’s award-winning Firehouse Shelter features cost effective and durable horizontal ribbed insulated metal panels and a standing seam metal roof. Photo: Varco Pruden
September 2022 csengineermag.com
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