Station Design Awards Challenging for Judges

Janet Wilmoth offers an overview of the challenges faced in choosing this year's Station Design Award winners as featured in the November issue of Firehouse.


Whether you are thinking about a new fire station or are currently planning a new station or public safety facility, the November issue of Firehouse magazine offers you 53 fire stations, shared facilities and training centers for you to look for ideas and architects. Unfortunately, Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin’s fire station was inadvertently omitted in the November magazine, but will be in December. Mt. Horeb’s station is online in the Firehouse November digital edition here.

This year’s Station Design Awards had the largest number of entries and some of the most interesting discussions with the judges. You can read about our judges and their backgrounds in the November issue of Firehouse. Let me assure you, no judge had a station entered in any category and they were very diligent in their evaluations. Relying on their expertise, we asked the judges to carefully review each entry and bring their top three choices for each of the seven categories. Even that was tough and some judges brought a fourth choice.

The Career 1 Fire Station Category, for facilities over 15,000 square feet, staffing full-time fire and emergency personnel, had a pretty clear Gold winner among the judges. The Silver award took some discussion and a couple votes to decide, and the Bronze was tough with two stations tied.

The Career 2 Fire Station Category, for facilities less than 15,000 square feet, staffing full-time fire and emergency personnel, was left until last and votes were all over the place. All but one station received a vote for Gold in the initial round of voting and Career 2 took the longest to finalize. Judges agreed there were many excellent entries and lots of challenges among the panel.

The Combination Category, for facilities staffed by a mix of paid and volunteer fire and emergency personnel, was another category with a unanimous Gold winner. The Silver award votes were widely spread among judges, took much discussion and more rounds of voting to finalize a Silver and Bronze.

The Mixed Use Category, for fire and emergency facilities combined with other agencies or organizations, posed a challenge among the judges and we agreed that two of the entries needed to be pulled from Mixed Use and re-classified as Training Facilities. Next year, Training Facilities will be included again as a category.

The Renovation Category, for stations that are redesigned, re-purposed, or upgraded, had only three entries, but pictures of the "Before" and "After" helped decide this category. Judges were definitely impressed with each of the entries and the reinvention of the stations and layouts.

The Satellite Category, for additional stations from headquarters or main offices, was another that took some discussion and was decided between four stations of the eight entered.

The Volunteer Category, for facilities staffed by volunteer and paid on-call departments, had three entries and the judges awarded only one a Gold award. Volunteer is a tough category because of budgets, but each station was a “winner” for its department and example for other volunteer departments.

If you are planning to enter the 2020 Station Design Awards, here are a few things to think about:

  • Some of the entries might have done better if entered in different category. We will try to define the categories better next year.
  • We are going to add the option of a PowerPoint (max 15 slides) to better tell your entry’s story.
  • This year, three entries made the finals and stated they had fire sprinklers however the sprinkler heads were not visible in the supplied photos. A quick call and new photos showed sprinkler heads. Consequently, Do Not Photoshop submitted photos!

Lastly, the 2020 Station Design Conference website will be available shortly with registration and a new program based on feedback from attendees this year.

Have a happy and safe Thanksgiving!

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