Public Safety Buildings

By Steven A. Watchorn, Assoc. A.I.A., LEED AP BD+C

Renovations to existing buildings often occur with at least some level of occupancy in the building or adjacent space.  Even school renovations that take place over summer vacation usually must allow for some administrative staff, teachers and custodians to occupy portions of the building during the work.  The Designer should review the Owner’s requirements, specify special protections and outline Contractor responsibilities to provide jobsite safety during construction.  In some cases, this means going beyond providing emergency egresses, construction of physical barriers, and sealing off HVAC systems to prevent infiltration of indoor air pollutants associated with construction activities.  While some downtime and inconveniences can usually be expected, the Client’s particular requirements should be reviewed in advance to try and alleviate frustrations.

For instance, public safety buildings demand significant consideration, not only to maintaining operations, but also to security.  CBI recently provided design services for renovations at two public safety buildings; one requiring strict separation of work areas, and another requiring phasing of the work so there would be no down-time at all.

At a Police Headquarters Building in central Massachusetts, interior renovations were required to provide a new UPS server room.  The room was to be created from an existing supply room.  The supply room contained guns, ammunition and other sensitive items, and required a secure separation from all adjoining spaces.  The Contractors had to be monitored at all times, and the work was phased so that construction of a full CMU partition with security wiring around the existing ducts above the ceiling was built first in order to provide full separation between the UPS room and the adjacent supply room while the rest of the work was completed.

Renovations at a large Correctional Facility in south-eastern Massachusetts included replacement of the existing hot water heaters and storage tanks that supplied all the inmates with domestic hot water.  One of only two existing hot water heaters had failed before the work started and the entire facility depended on the remaining single hot water heater while the replacements were installed.  The Contractors were required to complete background checks, enter and leave through security check-points, and have all tools and equipment checked by security.  The facility is also planning for significant kitchen renovations but the renovations must occur in phases so that service is not interrupted.  The kitchen is either in preparation, production or clean-up of meals for IMG_8800 all but about 4 hours a day in order to provide meals to the 1,400+ inmates and staff.

When it comes to Public Safety Buildings, the agencies that operate them already have many fail-safes in place in case of emergency.  This was apparent when one of CBI’s projects was put on-hold before it even started when the municipality closed its Police Station because bacteria was found in the building’s domestic hot water system.  They acted quickly to install a Mobile Command Unit in the Police Station’s parking lot, and calls were re-directed to prevent disruptions in Police service.  Some events are unavoidable, but the best laid plans are ones that are thought out in advance.