"Sustainable, healthy, productive,
Green Police Facilities
By: Susan Geoghegan
building combines the practice of increased resource efficiency and human
health protection to develop a structure that is environmentally responsible
and resource-efficient throughout its life-cycle. Green, aka “sustainable” or
“high-performance” buildings may incorporate sustainable materials in their
construction, create healthy indoor environments with minimal pollutants,
and/or feature landscaping that reduces water usage.
In the United States,
buildings account for 39
percent of total energy use, 12 percent of the total water consumption, 68 percent of total electricity
consumption, and 38 percent of the carbon dioxide emissions. Since green
buildings use fewer resources
and reduce the overall environmental footprint of the building sector, the adoption of green strategies can maximize environmental
and economic performance.
construction methods can be integrated into buildings at any stage, the most
significant benefits are realized through an integrated approach from the
earliest stages of construction.
Development of Green Building
contemporary green building movement dates back to the early 1970s when
increased oil prices spurred extensive research into improving energy
efficiency and finding renewable resources. By the 1990s, it gained momentum
with the development of programs and initiatives from both the public and
private sectors. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) released its
Environmental Resource Guide, addressing for the first time the use of Life
Cycle Assessment methods in mainstream architectural practice.
EPA and the U.S. Department of Energy launched its ENERGY STAR program, a
voluntary program that promoted energy-efficient products that help to reduce
greenhouse emissions. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 and the Energy Independence
and Security Act of 2007 were aimed at setting sustainable performance standards
and requirements for high-performance green federal buildings.
In 1993, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) was
founded to promote sustainability in how buildings are designed, built
and operated. A private 501(c) 3, membership-based
non-profit organization, USGBC is dedicated to expanding green building
practices and education through the development of a
variety of programs and services.
Their Leadership in Energy and
Environmental Design (LEED)
is a third-party certification program and the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction, and operation of high-performance
green buildings. Projects that are LEED-certified experience a number of
benefits, including cost savings, energy conservation, reduced water
consumption, and improved air quality.
Considerations and Options
The same basic principles of
green building apply to both commercial and government structures, with some
key differences in strategy and approach. Project costs, turnover of ownership,
and operational and technological considerations play an integral role in the
design and development of sustainable buildings.
Jake Davis, Justice + Civic
Sector Leader at DLR Group, points out that while both government and commercial
clients take advantage of low-cost items, such as solar orientation to maximize
day lighting and energy efficiency, government agencies face greater
limitations on available options due to constrained budgets.
clients tend to be rather first-cost conscious, somewhat limiting the inclusion
of costly items like photovoltaic panels and wind turbines, which have long
ROI, for governmental sustainable projects,” Davis said.
LEED AP at Leach Mounce
Architects, Matt Huntington, said that regardless of the project type, the
basic concept of green building is to create a structure that will use the
least amount of energy, provide a safe working place, and reduce the overall
impact of the built environment. However, strategies to integrate green building
ideas may vary with regard to building type and client needs, as well as local
building code requirements.
“We have found that one of the
complexities of providing a green building strategy for a facility such as a
police or fire station comes when you realize these type of buildings are 24/7
operating facilities—the building never gets a rest,” Huntington said.
“Incorporating strategies that address these issues at the beginning of the
project usually result in a higher up-front cost, but the savings derived from
a good green building strategy will pay off over the life of the building in
energy cost savings as well as occupant productivity.”
According to Stephen Springs,
a partner with Brinkley Sargent Architects, another major difference between
public and private facilities is longevity of ownership. Unlike commercial
properties that have a greater turnover of ownership, public facilities tend to
have more longevity with one owner. “This means that public entities can have a
longer-term perspective when it comes to life-cycle costing. Whereas a commercial developer would only have an
interest in maybe a five-year payback, public entities can look much further
He also noted
that since public safety
facilities operate 24/7/365 and require effective redundancy and backup
solutions, the engineering decisions have tremendous long-term implications in
terms of operational costs.
some agencies opt for building a green facility from the ground up, many choose
to renovate and “re-purpose” existing structures in the interest of cost
savings. Davis notes that although the re-use of an existing building offers
opportunities to gain sustainable credit, it comes with some inherent
“One of the
obvious limitations is floor-to-floor height/overall deck height. These
are important considerations due to the need for inserting new HVAC equipment
and ductwork, along with phone/data infrastructure, sprinkler piping, and
recessed lighting—all requirements of a modern justice facility, but all
fighting for vertical space above ceiling, while attempting to keep ceilings as
high as possible,” Davis said.
help to better scale large spaces, such as community/training rooms and large
detective pools, and they help with daylighting strategies. None of these
things is possible when minimal above-ceiling spaces push ceilings down to the
point of non-function, proving that ample floor-to-floor space is a crucial
prerequisite for selecting the right renovation/re-use candidate.”
Davis also pointed to the perception among government agencies
that renovating an existing structure is more cost-effective than building from
the ground up. While there is some truth to this, the new green use may greatly
differ from the previous use, making major changes necessary just to meet basic
code requirements, and consequently negating the perceived cost savings.
“For public safety and justice facilities, even if the
existing building meets building and accessibility codes (which is a reach,
depending on the age of the building), it may not meet the code-mandated
structural importance factors for critical facilities, of which public safety
first-responder facilities fall under,” Davis said.
Like Davis, Springs also recognizes the
pros and cons of both approaches. “One could easily argue that there is nothing
greener than re-purposing an existing building versus developing a greenfield.
From a ‘green’ perspective, it is better to work on or restore an already unnatural
site than to destroy a new one. The negative, especially for specialized
facilities such as justice buildings, is that using an existing structure
inevitably comes with compromises because you are stuck working with what you
have. A ground-up facility can be more custom-built to suit the needs. And
still be designed sustainably.”
finds that building green “from scratch” has an advantage over re-purposing an
existing structure in that it can be tailored to the performance that is
required by the owner. “In an
existing building, incorporation of a green strategy may be limited by what is
available to the designer.
For example, the
designer for an existing facility may be told that the roof of the building
cannot be touched but has also been asked to design a building that meets a certain
level of energy performance—not being able to upgrade the roof’s energy
performance may negate the owners requirement. In a new building, all energy
performance requirements can be met, as long as the budget allows for it,” Huntington
would be natural day lighting which, when incorporated, saves lighting and
mechanical costs that would be included in a new building at very little
additional cost, but may not be feasible to achieve by modifying an existing
Brinkley Sargent Architects
Brinkley Sargent Architects is
an established, award-winning firm specializing in public architecture that
spans a broad range of project types, such as courthouses, city halls, and
police facilities. Bringing a 3D approach and principal involvement to
technically demanding building projects, Brinkley Sargent offers an extensive
array of services that include needs assessment, programming, site master
planning, architectural and sustainable design, budgeting, and technology
company’s list of completed public safety projects includes both renovated
buildings and ground-up structures. The DART Police Headquarters and the Grand
Prairie Public Safety Facility are examples of each type of approach, and both
were recognized with the AIA’s annual justice design award upon completion.
Dallas Area Rapid Transport (DART) Police Headquarters is currently housed in a
99-year-old structure that was originally built as a maintenance facility for
the Texas Electric Railway. Listed with the National Register of Historic
Places (NRHP), the building was renovated in 2011 to accommodate the increased
number of police personnel needed for its expanding DART Rail system.
architectural design was crafted to have minimal impact on the structure, while
maintaining and enhancing the historic aspects wherever possible, including a
historic trolley car displayed in the public lobby. This is believed to be the
first publicly owned NRHP-listed building to receive LEED (Leadership in Energy
and Environmental Design) platinum certification.
closely with the Texas Historical Commission to ensure that the renovations
were handled in an environmentally sensitive way, Brinkley Sargent, in
collaboration with Aguirre Roden, provided a needs assessment and program for
the headquarters facility. The final
design included a public meeting space, and areas for police records,
hiring and recruiting, police training, patrol, criminal investigations,
internal affairs, police administration, and evidence processing, as well as
locker room and exercise facilities for staff.
Prairie Public Safety Facility is a ground-up project that embraces the
“building in a park” concept by consolidating many public safety and justice
departments into one unifying whole. Built within a public park, the facility
combines Fire Administration, Detention, and Law Enforcement services in a
state-of-the-art 149,729-square-foot building. All four stories house
facilities for police administration, locker rooms and exercise areas for
staff, as well as museum space for both the fire and police departments.
Completed in 2010, this project has achieved LEED Silver Certification.
1966, the DLR Group is a full-service design firm that provides in-house
expertise and custom sustainable-design tools to create environmentally and
economically effective facilities. A member of both Architecture 2030 and the
U.S. Green Building Council, DLR Group works collaboratively with clients to
understand their goals and objectives, and then applies their own professional
expertise to create a truly integrated design. Their expertise covers a broad
range of markets, including government, education and hospitality. Many of the
company’s completed projects have been recognized for excellence in design and
have earned LEED certification.
The George C.
Young Federal Building in Orlando, Fla. opened in 1975, when green methods of
design and construction had not yet been adopted. After the completion of a new
courts annex adjacent to the Young building in 2007, the General Services
Administration decided to update the older structure to the standards of green
building. Before the onset of construction, DLR’s design team explored ways to
create a high-performance building envelope where one did not exist previously.
After numerous exterior and interior modifications to enhance sustainability,
the result was a completely modernized facility with a projected energy water
usage reduction of 40 percent.
Leach Mounce Architects
Architects provides a full range of professional services for public safety agencies,
and in the past 20 years has completed more than 80 needs assessments for city
and county governments. They provide expertise in the construction of law
enforcement and detention facilities, communications centers, fire stations,
and crime laboratories, as well as libraries and civic centers. By identifying
and defining the problems and opportunities that arise during the needs
assessment phase, Leach Mounce Architects are able to provide solutions
specific to each project’s goals, site, and operations.
When the City
of San Mateo’s Police Department determined that their police facility (built
in 1960) needed a major overhaul, they opted to build a new facility that would
meet their long-term requirements, rather than remodel the existing building.
The design team included City and Police officials, Leach Mounce Architects,
Green Building Studio (energy consultants), and the engineering firm of
Mazzetti and Associates.
The new San
Mateo Police Facility consists of a 47,500-square-foot, two-story main building
and a 43,000-square-foot subterranean parking garage. According to Huntington,
the building is the culmination of a 10-year design process, from needs
assessment through site selection to final construction.
Huntington stated, “The City of
San Mateo made a solid commitment to demonstrating leadership in advancing
sustainability and green policies and practices throughout the city. From the
onset of the new police facility project’s design phase, a comprehensive
checklist of goals was formed, paving the way for an organized approach to
incorporating energy-efficient measures and documenting LEED-qualifying design
strategies.” The project has achieved the LEED Green building Rating System’s
Silver certification and was also the subject of a Pacific Gas and Electric
case study in energy efficiency.
opportunities for green building projects are offered by a number of government
agencies and non-profit organizations, such as the Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). The EPA has a wealth
of information on available grant programs for sustainable projects at the
federal, state, and local levels, providing hyperlinks to each one. The USGBC’s
Affordable Green Neighborhoods Grant Program wards grants to affordable housing
developers and public agencies pursuing LEED certification.
Geoghegan is a freelance writer living in Naples, Fla. She can be reached at email@example.com.