Design Development Phase Services

CarolinaFireJournal - Jim McClure
Jim McClure
07/15/2014 -

(This is part seven in our exciting journey; at this point I have more episodes than Star Wars. We move forward to the second phase of the firehouse design process; the Design Development phase.)

Design development (DD) services use the initial design documents from the schematic phase and takes them one step further. This phase lays out mechanical, electrical, plumbing, structural and architectural details.

Typically referred to as DD, this phase results in drawings that often specify design elements such as material types and location of windows and doors.

The level of detail provided in the DD phase is determined by the owner’s request and the project requirements. The DD phase often ends with a formal presentation to, and approval by, the owner. Deliverables: Design development often produces floor plans, sections, and elevations with full dimensions. These drawings typically include door and window details and outline material specifications.

Read that paragraph again. The most important sentence is “The level of detail provided in the DD phase is determined by the owner’s request and the project requirements.”

I have been talking about the Program Statement since I started this series a year and a half ago. If you don’t have it at this point, you are in deep trouble.

The details that need to be filled in by the architect and his minions need to be decided and in print. The other reason is having something to compare the DD drawings too. We did not have a comprehensive program on my first project. I was totally dependent on others opinions. Unfortunately, their usual method was to cut and paste from their previous jobs.

The mechanical, electrical, plumbing and structural engineers now show their effect on the design. If you notice that some of the walls are thicker than others it is because of one of them. The structural engineer determined that certain walls would have more concrete or more steel to carry the load. The mechanical engineer needed space in the walls to carry pipes and duct work. The building may appear taller than you thought it would. This may be the mechanical engineer needing more space between the floors.

The janitors closet is smaller because the electrical room needed to be bigger, etc. etc. etc.

Architectural Pages
The first job here is to see if the size, shape and location of all the rooms are what you expected. You will use your program statement and room specifications in a comparison to the DD drawings. Are the doorways, windows, and layout correct? Has the shape of the rooms changed?

Why did the exercise room appear next to the office? It was supposed to be on the other side of the building? How come it does not look like the SD drawings anymore?

If the room shape has changed, can you still fit the specified furniture or equipment in it? The shelving we specified for our storage spaces was an unusual length. It was six feet and five inches. Not a measurement that easily translates in a world that thinks in 12 or 16 inch increments. More than once the DDs would show up and the storage rooms were basically whatever space was left over. There would be room for one shelf set but no more. The square footage of the room would appear generous. Except the width of the room was not wide enough for a second set of shelves in parallel or at a right angle to the first. Nor was it long enough to have two units end to end. You wind up paying for square footage that is not efficient. The internal dimensions of a room are the critical numbers to verify.

Your Program Statement should define rooms by the interior length and width dimensions, not just square footage.

Structural Pages
The structural pages give more permanent definition to the building. Once the bearing walls and support columns are placed on the plans it will be more difficult to change room shapes and sizes.

What will help you compare the floor plans on the architectural pages with the structural pages are the Grid lines. I wrote about them last summer, volume 28 #1. The grid lines you see on page A2.1 will be in the same location on page S2.1. That thick wall on line two on the “A” page will center on the foundation under that wall on the “S” page.

By the way, those grid lines show up as stakes in the dirt when construction begins. A civil engineer lays out all the grid lines. The layout of the entire building is dependent on those stakes being in the right place. I know it is a matter of science and math but it has always been magic to me. If the surveyor is off the whole building is off if it is not corrected.

The structural pages may be the hardest to understand.

Mechanical Pages
The mechanical engineer’s equipment shows up now. If your budget had enough money, there is a good chance your HVAC system is in a room on the ground floor. This is the easiest location for maintenance. Having it on the exterior of the building with large access doors will make your mechanic smile. Two reasons not to put it on the ground floor: more important rooms must be on the first floor or your budget is too tight. If that is the case your equipment belongs in a mezzanine or on the roof. That space is mostly paid for already. Admittedly, maintenance is a little more difficult. I have already written about creating access for HVAC in my last project. The roof is relatively free space. The only interior space you have to pay for is the access ladder unless you spec outside wall mounted ladders. The Building Code dictates certain items regarding these ladders.

The M1.x pages shows the location of the units themselves. You would think this would be self-evident. That is only true if you have already discussed and designated a space for the equipment. Then you are just verifying the information. My first project taught me a valuable lesson. I was reviewing the DD set and could not find the HVAC. There was no designated room. This was a single story building so I looked at every page that would give me a view of the attic, nothing there either. I moved on to the rest of the set. I don’t remember which page I was on when I found the HVAC. It was in the hose tower. It never occurred to me to look at that part of the building.

I called the architect to ask for a clarification. He thought the tower was just a traditional piece of architecture with no function! I corrected his opinion and the next version of the plans showed the system in the attic. This turned into a nightmare for the installer. Engineered pre-fabricated trusses supported the roof. There was not a lot of room to install the equipment and duct work.

There are several factors that dictate the type of system you choose.
The budget may force you to spec the most economical system to buy, even though it may not be the most efficient to run. Energy policy may trump all. In the end, make sure the system listed will do what you want it to.

If rooms share a thermostat there is something to look out for. The first is; how are they zoned? Twice I have had mechanical engineers on two different firehouses use their rules and logic to set up zones that would not work for our use. In an effort to “balance” the two zones they tied rooms together from the north and south side of the buildings. The problem is the thermostat only reads the side it is on. If it is on the south side it will not turn on the heat even if the north side bedroom is cold. The opposite applies also.

I must confess that my firehouse experience influenced the system we chose. A thermostat in another room controlled my room. The firefighter in that room was originally from Alaska. Do you think that thermostat was ever turned up. No! Today our new buildings have individual bedroom controls.

I have one last comment on the HVAC. If your building is big enough to have a commercial system consisting of a boiler and a chiller, you must budget for commissioning. This is a process done when the system is completely installed but before and you move in.

Your specifications should call this out in section 15. Basically it tests and tunes the entire system. The only firehouse we have with that system was not commissioned. You can hang meat in one room and take a sauna in the next. This one building out of 34 is one-sixth of the utility bill. Commissioning it today would be $100,000.

Diesel exhaust is also in this section. Aside from making sure this is the system you specified, you need to look at the plan showing the location on the ceiling. There are four to six contractors who have to hang things over your head. Lights, speakers, overhead doors, exhaust systems, sprinklers and possibly heaters or fans. It gets crowded up there very quickly and none of these trades talk to each other. Their work is not even on the same pages. It is up to you to get the building you want. Make sure the architect coordinates with all of them.

Plumbing Pages
The Plumbing pages may be the easiest to review. First off you are looking for where the underground pipes go. They shouldn’t be under the path of travel of the rigs if it can be helped. If they have to be dug up, you don’t want the work to impact the rigs. Secondly, the exception to this rule is to ensure there is a sewer clean out somewhere remote and out of the way in the rear yard. This clean out is for the day 20 to 30 years in the future when the plumbing system in the building needs work. You can bring in a bathroom modular and the clean out gives you a place for the waste. With a hose bib nearby, the building can stay in service. Right now I am imagining the firefighters who work in a very tight urban location. They are thinking, “We don’t even have enough room to park, let alone bring in a giant port a potty!” Sorry folks.

Review the fixture schedule to make sure the fixtures listed are to your specifications. If they are not and you live in an “or equal” environment, make sure they are equal. You specified the Binford 2000 faucet for a reason.

If you use hot water heat, the boilers will be listed here, not in the Mechanical pages. Again make sure the system listed works as advertised. I had such a bad relationship with one architect; I called the mechanical engineer who did the specs for the system.

Electrical Pages
Hopefully, the electrical room is another room on the exterior of the building. Again, this makes the servicing electricians happy. There are other reasons of course. Think of the last fire you rolled up on. Isn’t somebody assigned “Utilities”? Isn’t it better to have all that stuff on the outside of the building? Another reason is firefighters tend to use every space in the building. I know our electricians were never happy with the space; something about “keep clear for three feet.” The fact is we used the electrical rooms as closets.

Similarly to the plumbing issues, try to keep conduit out from under the path of travel. This has an exception also. We deliberately buried two, four inch empty conduits under the front and back aprons and driveways. This was right next to the sidewalk. The conduit ended in Christie boxes at both ends. Their purpose is for the day some utility company comes down the street and needs to lay new line. They can use the boxes and conduit without tearing up the street and impacting the response time.

Review the schedule pages for compliance with the specs. There may be pages showing the sub-panels and what areas they feed. The other issue with sub-panels is the location. I mentioned in an earlier edition how they can show up in storage rooms you were hoping to fill with shelving. I would rather have them in a public hallway than take up valuable storage rooms.

Questions or comments? Operators are standing by!

Jim McClure is the owner of Firehouse Design and Construction (FD&C). The mission of FD&C is “to help firefighters, architects and government agencies design and build maintainable, durable, and most importantly, functional firehouses.” McClure’s career in public safety spans almost 29 years. For more information visit, www., call 408.603.4417 or email [email protected].
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