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by Roger LeBrun (VELUX) with contributions from Eneref Institute
VA Firehouse exterior
Located about 20 miles outside of Washington D.C. in Ashburn, Virginia, an old firehouse served a heavily populated geographical area. Next to this original 65-year-old, 13,000-square-foot station, the fire company built an entirely new, 35,000-squarefoot, two-story building. Around 5,000 square feet of the original building was retrofitted to house a social hall.

The old firehouse, which had been built in the 1940s, was grossly inadequate for the number of people and the equipment. The new firehouse was primarily designed to meet the needs of a modern fire department, but the firehouse committee also wanted the building to replicate the classic appearance of an early-1900s fire station.

VA Firehouse interiorTo realize the benefits of natural interior daylight, 27 VELUX Sun Tunnels were secured to curbs on the fire station’s EDPM flat roof of a synthetic rubber membrane. The product, which is a long tubular skylight, brought daylight from the rooftop of the firehouse into the building’s interior. They are designed to minimize light loss through the tube, resulting in brighter illumination into the interior space. During daylight hours, the electric lights can be turned off in most areas of the second floor of the new firehouse.

Using a highly reflective specular material, the product is specially designed to maximize the use of sunlight. When sunlight enters a rooftop lens, the light bounces back and forth down the tube. Multiple bounces can substantially reduce light output in a typical skylight with a diffuse surface. However, due to the specular nature of the reflective surface of the product, very little light loss occurs through the tube, even when angled. Though they do not offer a direct view of the sky, they essentially squeeze every drop of light out of the system.

VA Firehouse roofThe skylights drove sunlight from the rooftop into the room’s 24-by-24 acoustical ceiling tile grid. In the bathroom, round lenses were set flush into the drywall ceiling. For aesthetic appeal, the skylights were spaced 12 feet apart to create a repetitive, symmetrical pattern of ceiling tiles and skylights down the hallway. Because perimeter rooms already had windows, skylights were not specified. Blackout curtains were added to bunkroom windows to help firefighters sleep during the daylight hours.

The design process for the new facility took six months, and construction required an additional 18 months to complete. The total cost for the project was $8 million. Today, the firehouse is attractively well lit, functional and cost-saving in terms of daylighting.