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.