New OR Station Designed with Community in Mind

March 30, 2020
The Pendleton Fire Department's state-of-the-art Station #1 is a 21,500 square-foot facility that came in below the city's allotted $7.4 million budget.

The construction of a modern fire station, from breaking ground to the final ribbon cutting, may seem like a major journey in itself. But in most cases, the construction is the end of a much longer and quite complex process. While the new Pendleton, OR, replacement station was completed on time and within budget, its schedule spanned five years.

Integrated design firm Mackenzie, based in Portland, OR, helped shepherd the project from inception to completion, including an existing facility assessment, new site selection, architecture, interior design, landscape, civil engineering and construction. In 2014, the project began with the needs assessment of Pendleton’s old station, which, as would be expected of a 1950s-vintage facility, had many deficiencies.

With only one large overhead door for both bays, the door had a tendency to crash and block entry and exit. The bays weren’t tall enough to adequately accommodate clearance for the ladder truck, and several entry points, many of which were perpendicular to one another, caused problems with rig maneuverability. Plus, there was no dedicated room for turnout gear, which then suffered from UV exposure.

There were also problems with the living quarters, including no accommodations for female staff, no room for residents to study in, and no security. The fitness room was located on a structurally non-supported mezzanine in the apparatus bay, open to exhaust from the rigs, and not climate controlled. The station was also not equipped to support future growth or new staff.

“The old space was cramped — built in the 1950s for apparatus and staffing of the era,” says Pendleton Public Works Director Bob Patterson.

On top of these challenges, Mackenzie determined the old facility wasn’t compliant with seismic codes, ADA requirements, energy savings or NFPA fire station design standards. In short, there was a lot of work to be done.

The team explored the possibility of renovating and expanding the existing station, but selecting a new site and starting from scratch made the most sense. The new site had to be both large enough to accommodate the growing service needs and be located in an optimal spot for ideal response times across geographies. When considering location, eight sites were selected for further review, with a list of 18 separate criteria for judging their suitability. These criteria included response time coverage, vehicular access and maneuverability, and site-specific constraints.

The team eventually selected the site of an old hospital, which had the best location in terms of response coverage, and the highest feasibility for development.

As fire departments serve communities, it takes the backing of those same communities to make station projects a reality. When those stations receive the attention they need — whether through renovations or ground-up new builds — they become a stronger asset to the public, providing essential services from an efficient site. With the site chosen, the team collaborated with City of Pendleton stakeholders on the project’s design, and continued to provide updates to the public. Overwhelmingly, city leaders voiced their desire for the new station to reflect local Pendleton character.

The conceptual materials developed by Mackenzie, along with the analysis of the existing station, were used by the city to support its campaign for a bond measure to fund the project. Clarity of vision and a clear illustration of a fire department’s needs are critical tools to gain public approval. The bond funding the estimated $7.74 million project passed in November 2016, allowing the design team to move beyond concept design.

The city hired McCormack Construction to provide additional insight during the design phase, so that before construction began all teams could weigh in on possibilities, practicalities, function and even sustainability. It’s a highly unusual practice for public projects in Oregon to bring a contractor in so early, but it’s one of the reasons the Pendleton Fire Station #1 project was such a success.

“The city found the Construction Manager / General Contractor (CMGC) process to be an excellent fit for this particular project,” says Patterson. “The architect, owner and contractor worked really well together.”

Construction began in May 2018, with some initial challenges from the site’s significant grade difference from one side to the other. A railroad that ran along the north side of the property required sound mitigation solutions, while a redesign of the city street was also required to better manage traffic in front of the station. Because of the freezing winters, the roof was designed so snow didn’t slough off on trucks leaving from the bays for emergency calls.

By summer 2019, the project reached completion — under budget and on schedule. A celebration of the region, the 21,500 square-foot building’s overall design includes locally sourced, reclaimed wood and interior colors inspired by the famous Pendleton material pallet.

Design features include individual lodging quarters for both male and female staff, a full kitchen, fitness room, day room, offices, workspaces and community meeting rooms. The station is also designed and equipped to be an emergency operations center, if needed.

Training props are incorporated into the building, too. There are anchor points for rope rescue training, a trap floor on mezzanine for confined space extraction and windows for ladder training in the apparatus bay. There’s also a “dirty classroom” where firefighters can train in their turnout gear without contaminating the living quarters.

“Some of the most tremendous features of the new station are the transition zone and the dirty classroom,” says Pendleton Fire Chief Jim Critchley. “These features will allow this to be a healthy workplace for years to come.”

It is an energy efficient facility, taken through the Energy Trust of Oregon program, which provided incentives for sustainable features like photovoltaic panels, tankless water heaters, LED lighting, low flow fixture and on-site stormwater treatment and detention.

“This is a beautiful, safe, healthy station. The firefighters are so thankful to the community for their support,” says Critchley.

With the new Pendleton Fire Station #1’s grand opening in July 2019, the fire department moved into a new space that will be an integral part of the community’s civic identity, and an integral part of serving that community, for decades to come.

About the Author

Cathy Bowman

Cathy Bowman (NCARB, LEED AP BD+C, GGP) is a project architect on Mackenzie Architecture’s public projects team. She has focused on emergency response facilities and has worked on 20 fire facility projects since 2013.

Cathy has experience in both fire and police facility needs assessments and construction documents, and has managed a wide variety of design projects, including replacement facilities, remodels, new construction and seismic upgrades.

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