Several necessary elements are required in order to successfully plan and execute the design and construction of a new fire station or emergency services facility. Different from most other commercial construction projects, fire stations are a part of the community and therefore are typically very high profile in nature. The need for a well-laid-out plan of attack is paramount so communicating the plan to the local community can be done in a well-thought-out fashion, highlighting the reasons and needs for the new station.
Once it has been determined that a new station is necessary, many items have to be taken care of before one can even begin to think about construction. Follow these steps to ensure the process unfolds smoothly and buy-in is collected from all of the project’s stakeholders:
Financing the Project
First and foremost, you have to have the ability to fund the project. This can be addressed in a variety of ways, including public/municipal appropriations, local and federal grants and grassroots fundraising. Whatever the sources of financing, make sure that all investors are on board and all parties are clear on their commitment to the project.
Once you understand your budgetary parameters or at a minimum have a range that the financial source has agreed to fund, it is then time to select a design-build company that will manage the entirety of the process for you and your team.
Look for Experience
Your design-build company will advise you at critical decision points throughout the process and lead you down the path to a successful project. Therefore, it makes sense to seek out a company with a history of designing and constructing fire stations. Only consider companies with a strong portfolio of related projects (at least 10 to 15 fire/emergency services facilities) to guarantee you are getting an expert that understands all the nuances of the industry.
Establishing Project Goals
Your design-builder will help you and your team take an in-depth look into your current operations, including how your personnel operate in their current environment and what may be lacking that could help both the station’s personnel and surrounding community. With an understanding of your current operations, you are now ready to identify needs and goals for the new facility. One great way to determine your needs is to poll members of your station on what they would like to see in a new station, as well as ask community members for their ideas.
Armed with information about your current operations, future needs and “stakeholder wish list,” your design-builder can begin programming your project and produce the station’s floor plan along with elevations or renderings. Upon completion of this stage, you may choose to hold a community forum to allow comments and questions to be answered. Providing stakeholders an opportunity to speak their minds helps create buy-in from all parties.
Choose the Appropriate Site
Once you have a plan, including the size of the new structure, it is time to evaluate your building site or select a site if you do not already have one. Site selection is a key factor in every fire station project with its own unique set of goals — whether it be locating the structure close to planned growth or simply lowering your ISO rating.
Be sure to include your design-builder in the property search so they can advise you of constructability advantages and disadvantages of each property being considered. The essential items to pay attention to when selecting a site are location, contours and elevations, soils type, available utilities and expandability. Once you have a site selected, it is wise to perform a survey and geotechnical investigation on the property during your due diligence period to verify there are no underlying issues that cannot be seen by the naked eye.
Positioned for Success
By carefully following these planning steps and selecting an experienced, qualified design-build partner, you will have laid the groundwork for a successful outcome. You now have funding sources identified, a pre-construction plan in place and the building site selected. Your design-build team will lead you through a seamless transition from project planning to the design, construction and permitting phases.
Benjamin Wilson, LEED AP BD&C, is president of Bobbitt Design Build, a leading design-build contractor for Fire/Rescue facilities throughout the Carolinas.