15 Tips for Planning a Fire-Rescue Facility in 2015

CarolinaFireJournal - By Ken Newell
By Ken Newell
04/24/2015 -

After a design firm spends 40-plus years designing fire-rescue facilities, they often are asked by public safety personnel beginning the facility planning process, “What are some of the tips you can give us for our station project?” This is not a Top 15 list, but is simply a random list of ideas we find ourselves repeating to our clients and those in the pre-planning stage.


Providing space for other agencies, such as the separated-entry police substation above, may secure additional funding sources.

1. A Full Site Survey

This includes topography and many other data characteristics, will be necessary for design and construction. With the proper “survey checklist” there is nothing to keep you from having the survey performed even before you hire a design professional.

Collect and provide specs to the designer for all specialty equipment that the department will provide.

2. Architect References

Before selecting your architect, be sure to speak with several of their past public safety clients to gauge their level of satisfaction with the architect’s performance.

3. Consider Soft Costs

There are many non-construction costs associated with a project. These are typically referred to as “soft-costs” and can include items such as; land acquisition, surveys, special inspections, furnishings, equipment, design fees, etc.

There is normally a significant price increase to build a multi-story station compared to single-story.

4. Free Property

“Free property” often turns out to be very expensive based on its development cost, unusable easements and right-of-ways, or what is below the ground surface, i.e., unsuitable soils, rock, high ground water, buried debris, etc.

5. Combine Agencies

You may be able to secure additional capital funding sources if you provide minimal space for other agencies like EMS, a police substation, or parks and recreation space.

6. Decide on Equipment

Collect literature or cut-sheets on the equipment you plan to purchase for the new facilities, such as extractors, compressors and alerting systems. This information will be needed during the facility design.

7. Include End Users

Try to include “end users” on your planning committee. They have a vested interest in being dedicated to the project’s success. If they are not included, they will certainly find items in the finished facility that doesn’t meet their expectations.

Station 2 was designed with a by-pass truck lane that can later become the third apparatus bay.

8. One Story or Two?

It is almost always less expensive to build a one-story station compared to a two-story station, assuming that you have the proper site to do so.

9. Consider Future Growth

Plan the site and facility for future growth and modifications. It will happen.

Materials selections that do not require painting and constant cleaning will reduce operating costs and increase the station lifespan.

10. Training Props

You can incorporate indoor and outdoor training props into the design for relatively little cost.

11. Material Selection

Select durable, maintenance-free materials and systems for inside and outside.

12. Using Glass

If you chose to use glass on the apparatus bay doors, consider not using it at the bottom panel. The glass at the bottom of the door is what requires cleaning most often.

13. Warranties

There are many systems that apply color to the apparatus bay floors during construction, but very few of them provide a meaningful UV color fastness warranty in writing.

14. Sample Flooring

Prior to pouring the apparatus bay floors, have the building contractor pour a sample floor panel so that you can approve the floor finish you expect to receive with the final product.

15. Grants

Your department may be eligible for grants or low-interest loans from government agencies such as FEMA, FHA, or USDA.

For more information on these ideas or many others, contact us or any experienced public safety design professional.

Ken Newell is a senior principal with Stewart–Cooper-Newell Architects, an award-winning firm whose growing resume includes architectural and consulting services for fire departments and municipalities in 26 states across the U.S. Newell has personally been involved with the design of over 200 Fire/EMS station projects and fire training facilities since 1988. Visit www.fire-station.com or email, [email protected] or 800-671-0621.
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