HLM were appointed by Ridge & Partners, Project Manager acting on behalf of the Royal Berkshire Fire & Rescue Service (RBFRS), for the new build fire station at Theale. Given the changing role of the Fire & Rescue Service and the greater connections to the local community, this site offers a great opportunity in terms of response times, community safety but also to create a shop window for the RBFRS recruitment and PR.

Design Approach

The ‘see and be seen’ concept utilises extensive glazed areas to allow the public to visually connect with the operations within the station, alongside the universal red exterior which signifies fire and rescue.

As one of a family of three stations including Hungerford and Crowthorne, Theale station continues a clear and consistent design, with the same expandable form acting as a signifier in each town.

HLM developed the detailed design for the new combined Fire, Police and Ambulance station with whole time fire cover provided with three appliances, offices and welfare for a community police facility, community facilities and modern workflows that separate the public from operational staff and also address decontamination flows post event. In addition, the facility includes a two bay transport and comm’s workshop and specialist working at height training facility, animal rescue and a bespoke heavy vehicle rescue prop.

The use of glazing to the office and appliance bays form part of the key concept of “see and be seen” which addresses miss held conceptions that “something is going on behind closed doors”. The “see and be seen” policy is part of a strategy to break down barriers between the local community and the Fire Fighters who serve it. This encourages the community to take ownership of the station through the use of on station facilities such as the community room. The encouragement of the community to take ownership of the station helps not only with vandalism of the station buildings but also with anti-social behaviour at call outs and fire prevention.

As a Tri-Service Station, time was spent refining the brief and accommodation schedules for each service in advance of round table design reviews to achieve a station that works equally for all services while keeping the public safe.

The station provides 24/7 cover including sleeping accommodation for a crew of 5 to 6 fire fighters, office accommodation to support the fire fighter, welfare accommodation and accommodation for partner agencies. In addition, the site also provides satellite workshop accommodation for vehicle repair and testing.

Brand was important for RBFRS and this station formed the third in a family of tri-service stations including Hungerford and Crowthorne which all have a similar pallet of materials and landscape.

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