| 4 min read | Zach Michels, Dexter City Council |
Note: Dexter City Council Member Zach Michels recently traveled to Chicago to attend a conference on firehall remodel/construction requirements. He had a chance to consult with some of the architects and engineers showing them the remodel plans for the current fire station and the new construction plans for the MAVD property.
Zach submitted a summary of his finding to City Council. The first article covered highlights of the feedback he received for remodeling the current fire station. In this second article, Zach reports on the response the experts had to new construction plans for a new fire station.
Here are the highlights. Zach’s entire report can be found on this link beginning on page 43.
Here is a list of a couple (2) concerns for the conceptual design at the MAVD site, a number of value engineering ideas that could reduce the cost of the building, and future proofing ideas. These comments were solicited from architects who focus on the design of fire stations and public safety buildings at the Station Design Conference.
The general consensus from the architects was that it appeared to be relatively easy to reduce the cost of this project by $250,000 to $500,000, or more. – Zach
Sleeping Quarters (Concern)
Because the DAFD is a hybrid service, several members of staff are at the station 24/7. They need to have a place to sleep. In order to accommodate more than a single gender and to provide better sleep, the trend in fire station design has been toward individual sleeping quarters. The proposed plan shows four sleeping quarters, which is more than the two members of staff currently quartered.
These sleeping quarters are considered residential space, according to building code, and MUST have two means of egress. They MUST have windows that open to the outside, which can serve as one of the means of egress.
One of the sleeping quarters provides a single means of egress and has no windows. It would have to be reconfigured in order to provide an exterior window, which would also serve as the secondary means of egress.
Egress from Training Room (Concern)
Spaces for public gathering are required to have a certain amount of egress doors, based on the size of the room/occupancy. In addition to the number of egress doors, the direction of the door swing is also important. Doors used for evacuation of public spaces should open outwards in order to facilitate quick and safe movement.
The quick eyeball test from the architects raised questions as to whether or not the proposed training room needs to have an additional outward-opening set of doors. The plan would have to be modified to accommodate that if it were determined to be necessary.
Conference Room (Value Engineering)
The conference room provides a space for staff to meet with developers, citizens, and staff and provides a space for review of plans in a private setting. It was stated that it should be possible to use the Training Room as a conference room by adding a conference table to this space and allowing for partitioning of the larger room when not in use. This would reduce the square footage of the building and its cost.
Training Room (Value Engineering)
The plans call for a training room to provide classroom training for the professional and volunteer staff. I asked all of the architects I met with what could be done to get more use out of this space. Many mentioned that it was common to make these types of spaces available to the public for community use. That would require more attention to ensuring that public spaces remain segregated from the private spaces of the station.
Many of them suggested moving this space to an outer edge, which would facilitate that public use and could eliminate a hallway (and the cost to build that hallway). Another recommendation was to remove this space from the building entirely and to have it stand as a separate building on the site. In addition to making it more accessible for public use, it would also
reduce construction costs. As it was explained to me, the per square foot construction costs for fire stations are significantly higher than it would be for that space as a stand-alone building.
Additionally, the building could be designed to allow for numerous training activities, such as mounting ladders, spraying water, connecting to sprinkler systems, etc.
Restrooms/Locker Rooms (Value Engineering/Future Proofing)
The plans call for two restrooms/locker rooms for both the fire station and police station, one for men and one for women. Everybody I spoke with said that no matter what your best guess is, you will not get the balance right
between the genders. A couple also mentioned the potential need in the future to provide a gender neutral option.
The recommendation was to have a general locker room for storage and then to have individual bathrooms. Although this could increase the total number of fixtures, it would reduce the cost of providing handicapped accessible options required by ADA in both bathrooms (only one would have to be handicapped accessible) and would help future proof the design of the structure.
Separate Police Station (Value Engineering)
The plan calls the fire station and police station to be part of a single building. There were some questions if it would be possible for them to be in separate buildings. The general concept is that the per square foot cost to build police stations tend to be less. That concept was not explored in depth when I opined that I did not think it would be well received to separate the two, but it may be something worth exploring in future design iterations.
Housing (Other Ideas)
The plans call for a single-story building. All of the architects told me that the only time you would build a multi-story building would be if it was the only option available, due to reduced response times within the station and added costs.
Immediately after that discussion, I then asked them about housing above fire stations. (It was inspired by a presentation at the Station Design Conference for multi-use fire stations.) Some mentioned that they had worked with departments that had partnered with local firefighting
schools. Basically, students would work at the station as an intern and were provided housing on site for the duration of their stay.
Some mentioned that they had worked with stations that provided low-cost apartments incorporated in the station to fire fighters. Some mentioned private-use apartments or condominiums above fire stations. They said it did require careful attention to the design and construction, but that it was possible to fully insulate the station from the apartments above.
Based on the cost of the vertical circulation, they said it would have to be at least two floors of living spaces and probably three to make it commercial feasible. There was also discussion of how that would increase the need for parking on the site. In order to reduce negative impacts on upper-floor residents, it would be more important for the fire department to adopt standard operating procedures that reduce possible nuisances, for example, not activating sirens until the fire truck is entering the street.
(This is a concept I would really like to explore more in the future!)