It will be another month or so before the fire trucks begin operating at W. 7th Street and Randolph Avenue in St. Paul, but the new fire station that's nearing completion certainly has a familiar look.

There is the brick veneer, Fire Marshal Steve Zaccard noted last week, and traditional red doors, too.

But there is excitement as well, over a quality not so readily apparent: The building with the red doors is very green.

The combined fire station and headquarters facility was designed to include energy-efficient features throughout, including a green roof that will be open to West End community use.

Block club members could meet, for example, and take in views of the former Jacob Schmidt Brewery, the St. Paul Cathedral and Mississippi River bluffs, Zaccard said. The latter, he added, "should be spectacular in the fall." The $15 million project follows the construction two years ago of a Western District police station that eventually won gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council, a group promoting environmentally friendly and energy-efficient construction.

Zaccard said that the city has yet to file the paperwork for the current project, but that it's hoped the fire station will qualify for silver status -- a notch below gold.

Energy-efficient features include automatic faucets and toilets, and lighting and temperature controls that adjust as people enter and leave rooms. Parking spaces are being set aside for alternative-fuel vehicles. Bike racks also are being installed, and a shower is being provided for bike riders, Zaccard said.

But it is the green roof that will be the "big environmental feature," said Anne Hunt, environmental policy director for Mayor Chris Coleman.

She expects the "garden roof" to be finished this spring.

Ease of use is a big feature

Fire and police officials said last week that their new facilities also are functionally sound.

Police spokesman Sgt. Paul Schnell, who once worked in the Western District, noted the value of little touches such as hooks for gun belts in restrooms and sleeping rooms for night-shift officers scheduled to make early morning courtroom appearances.

Zaccard noted how the new fire station was designed with "drive-through bays" allowing for fire trucks to enter on Randolph Avenue and to exit onto W. 7th Street with no need to back into traffic.

Building should fit well

City Council Member Dave Thune, who represents the West End area, said that the fire station project initially was a "tough pill to take" because the building is designed to replace two other stations that are scheduled to close.

But now, Thune said, "I'm tickled to death."

He sees the green roof, which is to include grass, vines and bushes, as an improvement upon a white roof that had been part of an earlier design. The large windows, he added, make it easy for people "to be able to see into the place," giving the building an inviting feel.

"Fire stations are pretty personal," Thune said. "People get a fuzzy feeling about their fire stations -- it's part of their family, so to speak." The new building, he said, should fit well with the West End.

Anthony Lonetree • 612-673-4109