Design Elements that Stay Within Budget

As a Design-Build General Contracting firm, we have three main goals when we enter negotiations with an owner:

  1. Design a station that will last 50 years for the current and upcoming generation to live and work in.
  2. Build a station that is within the budget the owner gives us to work towards
  3. Make money for our company.

Woodleaf Fire Department, Woodleaf, North Carolina

Those items are not in order of rank but merely statements to remind us of the importance of our jobs.  The facts are, if number one isn’t accomplished, we will soon be out of business for poor craftmanship. If number two isn’t accomplished, we will soon be out of business because we are an unaffordable contractor. If number three isn’t accomplished, I will quickly be out of a job because my boss will fire me for being a poor employee. None are any fun and all are goals to stay away from.

Item number one and item number three are more easily accomplished because of the thresholds and benchmarks we have set as contractors. We understand what products are worthy to use in our buildings and we understand what margins we are comfortable and willing to do business within. Item number two however is an ever-changing event that is different for every station and owner that we come across. Some stations are small in scale and have lesser needs than other stations. Some stations cover more territory and have more full-time employees. Some projects have larger scope requirements depending on upfits or new construction. All these adjustments within the plan diaphragm hinder and manipulate the price point for the project. 

Center Rural Fire and Rescue, Norwood, North Carolina

Many times, a station that comes to a design-build general contractor is looking for the best building for their dollar. They have requirements and needs for their station and have a budget to work within, but the question is always asked, “how do we stretch the budget and make our station not like everyone else’s station? Here are a couple design elements that can be incorporated within your station that enhances the looks and changes things up from your neighboring station. 

Multicolored Flooring in the Same Room

Using an arrangement of uniquely placed flooring will catch eyes of staff and visitors and will give the look and feel of exclusive taste. Price points to have multicolored flooring are a non-issue as long as it’s the same flooring type. (Mixing carpet and LVT would be a tricky adventure)

Bethlehem Volunteer Fire Department, Kings Mountain, North Carolina

Borders in Truck Bays

A quality way to build that stands the test of time is with CMU walls within the truck bays.  Painting this block can be done in a variety of ways. A single coated paint scheme can be incorporated with the building at a base cost. Multicolor paint schemes with a common band can be incorporated to enhance the look of the CMU and bring out an architectural feel within the bays for a minimal cost increase.

Accent Walls

Accent walls consisting of brick, wall paper, or a different paint color can enrich the look and feel of a room or main entrance. The internal wall makeup consisting of metal studs stays the same giving the end user the option to highlight their building with multiple materials that are uncommon in its location but common for the project. These ideas can be incorporated with the initial design and add minimal dollars to the project.

Ceramic Tile with Linear and Horizontal Placement

Bathrooms that have showers installed have a high volume of water encompassing the surrounding walls. Ceramic tile is a good option to keep the water contained and having a high-quality bath fan is important to keeping the moisture levels low and the mold growth subdued. The ceramic tile laid in a vertical or horizontal pattern on the walls can give the look of a wider or longer room depending on the actual size of the room. Keep this in mind when tiling your bathroom so you get the best look and feel for the room that is possible.  

Boxing and Tray Ceilings

Another economical feature you can add to your building is to use the central corridors within your building as focal points for awards and name recognition. With simple lighting these walls and ceilings can be utilized well above its central purpose. Removing hard corners to navigate hallways also gives an easy flow to your building and allows passage with other firemen easier when in a rush.

Listed are a few ways to enhance your station economically with subtle changes. When you are designing a station, ask your design-build general contractor what low cost items you can add to your station to ensure your station doesn’t blend in with the rest they have built. Ask to see photos of ideas and see how simple changes in floorplan, room shape and material used change the space but keep its purpose. ​

Goosie Kennedy is a Project Manager for D. R. Reynolds Company, Inc., a Design-Build General Contractor.

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