Sustainable, Resource-saving, Stylish: A Progressive New Building for the Tübingen Fire Brigade

Sunita Vellapally Sunita Vellapally
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Designing public buildings such as schools, community centers, or firehouses places many demands on architects. After all, the outcome should not only fulfil its function perfectly but also look attractive, blend harmoniously with the existing buildings in the neighborhood, invite a sense of well-being, and, in the best-case scenario, contribute to environmental and climate protection. In other words, it must be as sustainable and energy efficient as possible.

The experts at Gaus Architekten are leaders in this field and always manage to combine all these aspects in their designs. Today, we show you how well it can be achieved using one of their latest projects – the new firehouse in Tübingen-Lustnau.

Sustainability in focus

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Except for the floor slab and lift shaft, the building was constructed entirely of wood. Only FSC-certified timber from regional forestry in the Black Forest and Allgäu was used. The consistent use of natural materials continues in the interior, where all ceilings are made of untreated glulam. In contrast, the floors in the training and youth room areas are covered with oak parquet. The window frames are spruce and beech, while the wooden frame structure is made of glulam and beech. Only the floors on the ground floor, the walls, the floor slab, and the lift shaft are made of gypsum fiber boards or rubber and concrete.

The fact that so much wood was used affects the energy balance positively during construction; compared to a conventional concrete building, which would have produced around 85 tons of CO2, the new firehouse produced only six tons. Moreover, the wood used in the firehouse building also binds around 380 tons of CO2—a truly impressive energy balance. The building's technical systems are also state of the art in this respect: the firehouse is operated in a resource-saving, sustainable way with solar thermal energy and photovoltaic systems. It is heated with an energy-efficient wood pellet heating system with pellet storage and buffer storage. Thus, the administration wing almost meets the KfW 40 passive house standard.

Optimal operational processes thanks to well-thought-out cubature

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Of course, the design and construction of the new firehouse were not only focused on energy and sustainability aspects but primarily on functional factors. In a building with such an important function, it’s essential to ensure that operations can always run optimally. In this respect, the well-thought-out cubature, among other things, contributes to it.

The building is divided into three parts, with a cubic vehicle hall and two wings. In the modern vehicle hall, which is designed to double height – the full height of the room on two sides, there is space for five emergency vehicles and two interchangeable loaders. In the building wings, changing rooms, recreation rooms, and training rooms are arranged according to the functional requirements. The architecture of the building thus enables smooth operations not only in everyday life but also in the event of an emergency.

Striking, attractive appearance

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The new firehouse in Tübingen is not only a prime example of sustainable, resource-saving, and functional construction, but it is also visually impressive. The building's unique, vertically oriented façade results from the large number of wooden slats of different widths and depths, constantly creating new motifs throughout the day with the play of light and shadow.

It gives the entire building a dynamic and eye-catching character in the cityscape. Inside, warm oak floors, exposed wooden ceilings, and cream-white painted walls create an inviting, pleasant atmosphere. In addition, the targeted use of fire-engine red accents in the lift, lockers, and lettering creates an appealing contrast that reinforces the building's function.

Versatile outdoor space

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The three-part structure of the fire brigade building not only fulfils all criteria in terms of function, comfort, and aesthetics but also creates exciting outdoor areas, namely two independent courtyards that could not be more different. The courtyard facing the city offers a representative view, presenting valuable insights into the work of the fire brigade. In contrast, the courtyard facing the greenery at the back has a more private character, inviting people to participate in various exercises or internal festivities.

The interplay of function, aesthetics, and sustainability

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In summary, it can be said that the concise wooden building of the Tübingen fire brigade is trendsetting in many respects. The architects have achieved a symbiosis of functionality, aesthetics, and sustainability. The result is a functioning fire brigade building that goes beyond its function and can be seen as a compelling example of sustainable municipal architecture and building culture.

What do you love most about this firehouse?

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