Design Challenges of Public Safety Buildings

Our public safety agencies and their staff (fire­fight­ers, police, EMTs, etc.) play a fun­da­men­tal role in the life and wellbeing of our com­mu­ni­ties. Having facil­i­ties that con­tribute to the safe, pro­duc­tive and efficient per­for­mance of their jobs is essential. A few of the many chal­lenges those agencies, their archi­tects and their builders face are presented below.

Three key features of good buildings

For centuries, archi­tects have agreed that for a building to be archi­tec­ture” it must not only be beautiful, but also practical and well-built.

While beauty can be sub­jec­tive, public facility designs are scru­ti­nized by the public, and must often go through planning reviews to receive approval according to the community’s aesthetic standards and expec­ta­tions. A building that is striking and beautiful in a dense met­ro­pol­i­tan location will probably be ugly” in a rural setting. It is important, therefore, to consider materials that allow archi­tects flex­i­bil­i­ty when designing.

A public service facility must deal with emer­gen­cies a great deal of the time. Therefore, their staff must not be hampered by com­pli­cat­ed floor plans or bot­tle­necks. In addition, these buildings must be safe, secure, durable and resilient.

A fire­fight­er running to the apparatus bay should not fear slippery floors or being hit on the face by a swinging door. The old-fashioned fire station poles are now part of the nostalgic past. Wide stairs are much safer, and do not increase response time.

A police station must be designed to safeguard the safety of its staff and visitors against unruly, drunken or violent law breakers. Some rooms will probably need to be designed to protect occupants from armed intruders, or from angry vandals. But bullet proof glass is not the answer to every problem. Using common sense in the design process is key.

These buildings must have long-lasting, easy to maintain materials and finishes, to assure their com­mu­ni­ties that the funds they are given are used respon­si­bly. Sometimes it is easy to fall to the temp­ta­tion to use systems that are initially cheaper, without taking into account their actual life cycle cost.

Finally, during an emergency or natural disaster, these buildings should be able to continue to function, not only for their main purpose, but perhaps also as relief and assis­tance havens. The design itself, and the materials selected, should take earth­quakes, hur­ri­canes, tornados and floods into consideration.

Police (and other emergency personnel) are humans too

It has long been known that occupant comfort has an effect on pro­duc­tiv­i­ty, health and absen­teeism. Studies have proven that good quality natural lighting, access to windows and views of trees and skies, the ability to control the tem­per­a­ture of your work space, and the benign chemical com­po­si­tion of materials, all are increase our wellbeing and effi­cien­cy, and improve our attitude.

A room that is quiet, unaf­fect­ed by noise from the outside or from adjacent spaces, will clearly allow us to con­cen­trate better on our task, and may be essential for con­fi­den­tial activ­i­ties, such as inter­view­ing a witness at a police station, or com­fort­ing a victim of a fire.

If day­light­ing improves the per­for­mance on ele­men­tary school students in Math and English tests, it certainly can affect the quality of the office work we all do.

And exterior walls that keep the interior at a com­fort­able tem­per­a­ture despite extreme con­di­tions outdoors, and free of air leaks, moisture problems and vermin will certainly con­tribute to our enjoyment of the work place. This is no less true of those in public service professions.

Ease and speed of construction

While these are obviously desirable con­di­tions in any project, they become par­tic­u­lar­ly critical in addition and ren­o­va­tion projects.

A police station being expanded, or renovated, must remain func­tion­al to the greatest extent possible. While the staff will almost certainly have to adapt to the incon­ve­nience of working in an active con­struc­tion site, this should take as little time as possible.

Similarly, a fire station being expanded or remodeled to, for example, convert old, huge bunk rooms designed when all fire­fight­ers were male to also accom­mo­date women, will suffer dis­rup­tions to their routines for a while.

Therefore, designing the project with an eye to min­i­miz­ing these problems, and selecting materials, systems and methods that will reduce the con­struc­tion time is an excellent idea.

A wall system such as Bautex’s will go a long way towards helping achieve many of these goals. Their blocks are light weight and easy to install by one person, perhaps even a rel­a­tive­ly unskilled, less expensive laborer. They are made of durable, resilient materials, resistant to moisture, strong winds, fire and vermin. They have excellent thermal prop­er­ties, and reduce the total con­struc­tion time greatly. They may even con­tribute to achieving LEED™ certification!

Contact us to learn more about the latest design trends in public safety building con­struc­tion. Our team of design pro­fes­sion­als is eager to introduce you to the many benefits of our leading-edge wall systems. We look forward to helping designers and con­trac­tors complete projects faster to ensure that police officers, fire­fight­ers, EMTs and other emergency personnel have the facil­i­ties they need and deserve to respond quickly and effi­cient­ly to emergencies.