Trends and Cautions Shared at Station Design Conference

Credit: Peter Matthews/Firehouse Conference Director Janet A. Wilmoth opens the Station Design Conference in St. Louis, MO, on Aug. 24, 2021. The 2021 Station Design Conference was a record-breaker for fire and law enforcement station design conferences. Over 450 attendees from 41 states across the United States and Canada, 57 sponsors and exhibitors, and 31 presentations provided a robust gathering of networking and educational programs on designing public safety facilities.

Members from fire and law enforcement departments across the nation heard about site selection, designs, and trends in public safety design. Besides fire chiefs, police chiefs, and their staff, city managers and facility project managers were among the attendees. In fact, seven elected officials from a suburb of St. Louis also attended the conference. When asked what brought them to the conference, one of the officials said, “We care about our firefighters and police and we want to take care of them.” She added, “We brought seven of us so we can spread out and attend different sessions.”

In addition to two tracks focused on fire stations, the 2021 conference offered another track for law enforcement and an additional track on shared facilities. Physical health and mental health topics targeted both fire and law enforcement building designs.

Ken Newell, principal, Stewart-Cooper-Newell Architects , opened the conference with an introduction and overview on the process of design-and-build for a new or renovated public safety facility. While designing a building to last 50-75 years is the goal, Newell cautioned, “None of you can predict what you will need in 25 years.”

The increase of natural disasters and the impact on fire, law enforcement and public safety facilities was the focus for Susan Gantt, Architects Design Group , and Fire Chief Pete DiMaria with the Naples Fire Department. Their program focused on the increasing number of natural and manmade disasters, and the impact on public safety facilities.

According to Gantt, in 2020 alone, 25 natural disasters were each “billion-dollar events.” These events included wildfires, hurricanes, tornados, ice storms, etc. Gantt and DiMaria shared data on increased manmade disasters including civil unrest, cyber-attacks, and biohazards.

The duo shared specific areas to focus on when building a new facility, including exterior wall protection, as well as a redundancy in critical areas such as water systems, generators and fuel storage.

There was a noticeable increase in shared public safety facilities at the conference. James Stumbo, senior principal, Stewart-Cooper-Newell , addressed the positive sides of sharing a facility. “The larger the building gets, the less cost per square foot costs,” he said, adding that shared facilities benefit from bringing the utilities to one facility and how project management costs are less. “The benefits also include better opportunity for cooperation, improved efficiency and interagency training,” Stumbo said.

However, Stumbo cautioned that shared facilities also face issues with traditions, staff attitudes, privacy concerns, and egos. “If they work in the same facility, they start to act like a family,” he said.

Bob Friddle, (Ret.) director, Facilities Design and Construction, City of Minneapolis, shared some lessons learned from […]

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