By Alan M. Petrillo
The Delhi Township (OH)Fire Department has been providing fire service to the township since 1935, currently operating out of three stations with 60 paid full-time firefighters. The township, surrounded on three sides by the city of Cincinnati, had to replace the station in the eastern section of its district, a structure built in 1956 with 890 square feet of living space and two apparatus bays that now handles 52 percent of the fire department’s calls.
Douglas S. Campbell Jr., Delhi Township’s chief, says the department “needed to replace that station with something more suited to our staffing levels. We wanted a station to address future growth because the business district is in that fire company’s response area, which is about 10 square miles and has about 30,000 residents.”
Campbell says he had built stations for the department in 2001 and 2003 and took the opportunity to evaluate both of those facilities and discuss with firefighters what they liked about those stations and, as important, what they didn’t like. “The personnel created a laundry list of likes and dislikes that came out to six pages of items,” he notes. “Then we met with Mark Shoemaker, director of public facilities at KZF Design, who was engaged as the project’s criteria architect, and prioritized those items, which he then had to sell to the design-build team of SMP Design and Turner Construction.”
Shoemaker says that in Ohio, for a municipality to do a design-build project, it is required to hire a criteria architect. In that role, he says KZF Design prepared a narrative that described each architectural requirement for the new station, and provided an outline of all room finishes and mechanical equipment requirements. “The RFP (request for proposal) included a site diagram and a list of the specific requirements for each room as well as room data sheets, which establishes the quality level for the project,” Shoemaker says. “We also developed a short list of design-builders who could take on the project.”
Shoemaker points out that the two biggest challenges facing the team were that the site was restrictive because it sloped in the back, being a very deep but small property. The second challenge was making the station fit into the character of the residential neighborhood, as the location has residences on each side.
Kevin Spector, chief creative officer for SMP Design, notes, “The site had a pretty decent slope on it, and the back of the site had a swale with some woodland that had very wet soil. Turner Construction consulted with Delhi township and figured out how to fix the situation with a limited budget. Turner had successfully tilled lime into soil on a previous project because lime uses water to make a stronger soil. So that’s what they did on the Delhi site, meaning they didn’t have to drill piers to get down to rock, which would have been much more expensive.”
Spector says the new station would be the largest building in the residential neighborhood of older homes with pitched roofs. “We wanted to be sensitive to the neighbors from an architectural point of view, so we designed a station scaled to human scale that looked like it belonged there,” he points out. “We used a hip roof to bring down the roof line, and gables to break up the size. It’s a block building with brick veneer on the upper parts, and stone on the bottom, giving the eye an interplay or layering of limestone and brick elements.”
SMP Design also incorporated elements from Delhi Township’s other two stations, Spector says. “We used the material package from the other fire stations without imitating them,” he notes. “We did that through the use of materials, colors, and the roof dormer elements.” SMP also tried to introduce as much natural light in the apparatus bays and make the station as energy efficient as possible by cutting the use of electric lights, he adds, which SMP accomplished through the dormers on the front of the structure with high windows.
The finished structure cost $3.6 million and is 11,500 square feet, with three apparatus bays; sleeping space for seven firefighters; a watch (radio) room; and a combination kitchen, dining, and day room. Two of the apparatus bays are double deep with one being drive-through. While there are three apparatus doors on the front of the station, the rear has a single door designed so a ladder can pull into its bay, but still allow an engine to get into the middle bay.
Campbell says the sleeping area is a half-open concept where six bunk room walls run up to about two feet from the ceiling to allow ventilation of the entire area with a single system. The station’s lieutenant has a bunk room off his office. “The travel distance from the bunk room to the apparatus bays is exactly the same as in the old station,” he notes.
The new station uses all hard surfaces, Campbell say, including polished concrete floors, Corian® countertops, hardwood cabinets, and molded plastic bed frames.
At the time the new station was built, the township was seeking to begin a wellness program, so the station was designed with a fitness center that could be accessed using keycards through a vestibule from either inside the firehouse or from outside, to allow township employees access to the fitness center without going through the station. SMP also incorporated a one-way mirror on an interior wall of the fitness room that was viewable only from inside the station so that firefighters could monitor any problems in the fitness room.
The new station is also a multiuse facility, incorporating an office, interview room, and bathroom for the police department. “SMP created a soft interview room for OVI (operating a vehicle while impaired) cases,” Campbell says. “There’s a breathalyzer in there, and the police needed a secure place for in-processing people, so access is through the front lobby. The lobby glass is bulletproof and the drywall is ballistic-rated.”
Another element important to the department was the relocation of the township’s firefighter memorial from a park where it was not very visible, to the front of the new station. Spector says, “The relocation of the memorial was important in getting the public into the site, so we incorporated it into the front of the site, with a circular seat wall surrounding it.”
ALAN M. PETRILLO is a Tucson, Arizona-based journalist, the author of three novels and five nonfiction books, and a member of the Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment editorial advisory board. He served 22 years with the Verdoy (NY) Fire Department, including in the position of chief.