Tips for Planning a Fire-Rescue Facility in 2019

By: Ken Newell, AIA, LEED AP BD+C

We are often asked “What are some of the tips you can give us for our project?” by departments or municipalities in the early phases of planning a new station. Below are just a few suggestions we find ourselves often sharing with our clients or potential clients in the preplanning stage.

  1. 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 in the planning, they will certainly find items in the finished facility that don’t meet their expectations.
  2. There are many nonconstruction 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.
  3. 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. Designers with ample experience in your project type are likely to save you time, money, and headaches.
  4. “Free property” often turns out to actually be very expensive property because of unexpected development cost, unusable easements and right of ways, or what is hidden below the ground surface, i.e., unsuitable soils, rock, high ground water, buried debris, etc.
  5. A proper public relations program, with community involvement will garner even more support for your project, plus keep your neighbors happy.
  6. 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.
  7. Collect literature or cut sheets on the equipment you plan to purchase for the new facilities, such as extractors, compressors, or alerting systems. This information will be needed during the facility design.
  8. 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. Always plan the site and facility for future growth and modifications. It will happen.
  10. You can incorporate indoor and outdoor training props into the design for relatively little cost.
  11. If you choose glass apparatus bay doors, consider using a solid bottom panel. The glass at the bottom of the door will require cleaning most often.
  12. There are a number of ways to incorporate color to the apparatus bay floors during construction, but very few of them perform well over time or provide a meaningful UV color fastness warranty in writing.
  13. 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.
  14. Remember, if planned and constructed properly, this should be a 50- to 75-year facility. Select durable, maintenance-free materials and systems for the interior and exterior.

For more information on these ideas or many others, feel free to contact us at

KEN NEWELL, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, IAFC, has earned a national reputation for the programming and design of public safety facilities that are functional, practical and budget-conscious. Newell has been directly involved in the planning and design of more than 250 fire stations, EMS stations, and public safety training facility projects designed by Stewart-Cooper-Newell Architects. He has also consulted other architects on the design of more than 70 public safety projects spanning 27 States. Many of these stations have received national design award recognition.

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