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D4COST Software

  "Strangely Familiar" Structure is a Real Gas

A real gas station, that is…reminiscent of the unique, whimsical stops along old Route 66, when the drive was as much adventure as the destination.

Combining the charisma of nostalgia with the emerging name of Fuel Warehouse, this award-winning gas station/convenience store in Kinston, N.C. is a new concept for the industry. And that’s exactly what owners Frank Famularo and Randy Godsell of Mallard Oil hoped for when they approached Maune Belangia Faulkenberry Architects.

The owners wanted a design created outside the box, a design that would enable them to use the image as a draw in competing with the visual conformity of well-known, big-brand stations. MBFA’s result is a structure “strangely familiar and at once unique and appropriate in its setting,” says designer Rob Gardner.

“We wanted an unmistakable overall brand image that could integrate the specific regional influences of each new project site,” Gardner says. He cites the world-wide visual monotony of brands like McDonald’s, Exxon and Wal-Mart and adds “If our buildings send no message of local and regional character, then in effect we’re erasing that character.”

A translucent polycarbonate glazing system from Duo-Gard Industries adds a dramatic crystalline effect to the Fuel Warehouse convenience store/station in Kinston NC. The award-winning structure was designed by Maune Belangia Faulkenberry Architects.Instead of considering the gas canopies and store as dissimilar structures, the Fuel Warehouse design ties the entire site together into “one cohesive building”.

The sign band and arched roof will be universally recognizable, while other details will reflect regional influences. In Kinston, those influences are military and agricultural.

In the 10,000-square-foot covered area, an exposed steel frame supports militarystyle Quonset-hut galvalume roof panels with exceptional spanning capabilities. The 3,600-square-foot building, which includes a mezzanine for coffee and Internet surfing, features wood-framed walls clad with corrugated galvalume panels, MDF board and fiber cement.

A striking 24-foot-tall storefront entrance combines 8-foot panels of insulated glass and 16-foot panels of translucent polycarbonate. The glass allows customers to view the fuel pumps from inside. The polycarbonate, sometimes used in large greenhouses, adds both an agricultural influence and an unusual aesthetic.

“The way the polycarbonate refracts and diffuses light is eye-catching and alluring,” says Gardner. “In the daylight it catches the shadows, projecting them throughout the station. At night, it glows like a lantern and draws a lot of comments.” To create the polycarbonate system, Gardner worked with Duo-Gard Industries Inc. in Canton, Mich., a leading design/build maker of translucent walls, skylights and canopies.

For Fuel Warehouse, Gardner chose Duo-Gard’s Series 2000 Interlocking System. This system integrates a single layer of multiwall polycarbonate in a structural 6063-T5 aluminum frame designed to interlock from side to side in a head, jamb and sill channel. It’s available with 10mm, 16mm or 25mm glazing. Gardner selected 16mm triplewall polycarbonate in a clear crystalline tint and a mill finish frame. Diffused light transmission is over 60% with U-value 0.41.

Fuel Warehouse designer Rob Gardner says the translucent polycarbonate glazing contributes a three-dimensional effect that could not have been achieved with traditional materials.Gardner says he’s been struck by the beauty, economy and design flexibility of the translucent polycarbonate glazing. “There’s a lot of depth at the storefront, achieving a multilayered look,” he says. “Because of its translucency, the Duo- Gard system is striking and adds a threedimensional effect. It’s lightweight and easy to install, even in the 4-ft. by 16-ft. high panels. It does things you just can’t 14 Design Cost Data/May-June 2004 do with glass or fiberglass, which gives a flat, two-dimensional look.” He adds that he sees translucent polycarbonates becoming more popular as architects become aware of the color palettes, structural strengths and design possibilities available.

According to Gardner, people say they like the building because its combination of “common materials composed in a unique way” reminds them of other appealing structures from their neighborhoods or their past.

In 2003, the Fuel Warehouse won a Merit Award from the North Carolina Chapter of the American Institute of Architects. This was the first such award for a gas station and the judges cited its innovative use of materials. The design has attracted worldwide attention.

Designer Gardner says much of the credit for the structure’s success lies with its owners. “It takes a special client with guts and vision to take such a risk in an industry that’s more comfortable with a known concept. Even those who were the most outspoken critics during the design phase are now among the biggest fans.” 

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