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New multi-purpose operations centre built to last


July 3, 2014
By Tom Rataj

1212 words – MR photos: rataj aug.jpg, rataj2 aug.jpg, rataj3.jpg, rataj4.jpg

New multi-purpose station built to last

by Tom Rataj

The County of Wellington and the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) recently celebrated the grand opening of the North Wellington Operations Centre – the county’s third such facility.

It amalgamates two OPP detachment buildings and adds an additional emergency operations centre (EOC) to the north-west end of the county. The building was custom designed and built to OPP operational specifications. The OPP has a long-term lease on the county-owned facility. Detachment commander Insp. Scott Lawson is excited about the new working space.

Wellington is a large, mostly rural jurisdiction about 100 km. north-west of Toronto which, like many other rural jurisdictions, contracts its policing services to the OPP.

The centre is located on previously disused municipal land that had most recently been used for baseball diamonds. It is accessibly located near the intersection of two major thoroughfares at the west end of the county in Teviotdale, which was once a village. The site is located away from flood-prone areas.

{Prairie school style}

Developed by two of the county’s frequent collaborators, architect +VG Architects and Collaborative Structures Ltd., the new building is designed in the attractive prairie school style made famous by American architect Frank Lloyd Wright and others.

It features typical style elements including horizontal lines, a low-pitch hipped-roof with large overhangs and windows grouped in horizontal bands. The building is well integrated into the flat prairie-like topography of the area, with a massing that keeps the two storey, 1,728 m2 (18,600 sq. ft.) structure from overpowering the rural neighbourhood while still providing the appropriate presence for a police facility.

The interior design language includes well-crafted wooden features and built-in storage cupboards in the arts and crafts architectural style.

With a fair number of ground level windows and the second storey clerestory windows, much of the interior is bathed in natural daylight, making it a pleasant working space for its 50 staff members.

All the areas occupied for only short periods of time – such as locker rooms, bathrooms and storage spaces – are in a central core. They are surrounded by a main hallway, separating them from the more continuously occupied operational and office spaces. These all have generous numbers of windows to provide daylighting and a connection with the outside world.

The booking and prisoner management areas and some garage space is located at the back of the facility

{Durability}

Construction began with cast-in-place concrete foundations, load bearing masonry and structural steel columns with light gauge steel trusses and studs, structural insulated panels (SIP) and sprayed-in-place foam insulation.

In addition to meeting Ontario Building Code requirements for police facilities, there are numerous design, engineering, construction and material elements that make the building sturdy and more resistant to seismic events and severe weather. The southwestern Ontario area sees a number of tornadoes every year so the choice of roofing and other exterior materials was carefully considered.

The exterior features natural stone-cladding, prefinished aluminum panels and wood trim. The roof is finished in dark-grey stone coated steel roofing that resembles weathered cedar shakes. It can withstand severe winds and comes with a 50-year warranty.

Thermally-broken aluminum window systems with double-glazed thermal glass units were used throughout. East facing windows are reinforced with a special security film to provide additional impact resistance due to the propane depot located east of the facility.

{Sustainability}

The building is custom designed for the site, taking into account the tracking of the sun for reductions in solar-heat loads, particularly in the summer. The large roof overhangs provide substantially shade the windows and there are fewer south-facing windows to further prevent heat loading.

To reduce artificial lighting requirements during the daytime, the upper roof section features an almost continuous band of clerestory windows, bathing the hallway areas below with daylight. The use of occupancy sensors throughout the building also helps save energy. They feature manual overrides and multi-level adjustments. Ambient light sensors automatically adjust artificial lighting levels based on available daylight.

One of the largest ongoing costs of operating any building, particularly in Canada, is heating and cooling. The centre uses a ground-source heat-pump system to provide primary heating and cooling. Heat-exchangers on the exhaust/fresh air outlet/inlet system further reduce heating and cooling costs.

Rainwater from the roof is stored in an underground cistern and used for grey water purposes (toilets and non-drinking purposes) and fire-fighting.

The hallways and other high traffic areas are finished in Marmoleum, a sustainable flooring product that is resilient and has low maintenance requirements. It also adds some additional splashes of colour to the interior spaces.

Most office space and the EOC, which doubles as a community room, feature carpeting. The cell area floor is radiant-heated concrete. It is coated with an epoxy finish containing a non-skid additive for a high performance, slip resistant surface that can be hosed-down when the inevitable need arises. The walkway leading to the front entrance also benefits from radiant heating, keeping it free of snow and ice during the winter.

{EOC & community room}

The large EOC/community room, located just inside the front door, is well equipped for its dual purposes.
It features large boardroom tables and ample seating, a large LCD TV, multimedia projector and screen, integrated sound system and small server, making it ideal for meetings and community events. Nicely diffused fluorescent lighting reflects from the vaulted wood ceiling, creating a warm working and meeting atmosphere.

It has large windows at the front and is accessible from the public lobby area as well as directly from the secure operational area. Public bathrooms are located just outside the room in the lobby area.

There is also a large smartboard, webcam and teleconferencing equipment, various computer connection options (for the county government and all emergency services) and broadband Internet and VOIP telephony for EOC functionality,

In the event of a large scale county emergency, all emergency and municipal services can quickly establish an EOC in this room to manage the emergency together. A generator can keep the entire building running during a large scale power failure and the front parking lot was designed and built with a reinforced base and paving materials so that heavy emergency vehicles and mobile command posts can set up out front without damaging the parking lot.

{Quality}

Unlike many cheaply constructed “budget” facilities, the $7.5 million Teviotdale operations centre is a solidly built and durable building that will be worth restoring in the future, says architect Paul Sapounzi.

He notes the importance of “doing it right” up-front by designing and building a quality structure that will last a long time, instead of skimping, which would make occupants unhappy working there.

He suggests that people working in and using a well-designed and built facility tend to be happier, which he believes translates into being happier when they are out in the community.

He describes designing police facilities as “a feather in the cap for an architect,” on par with other important community buildings like a city or town hall, churches or schools.

This a good example of how a collaborative design and development process can lead to the construction of a beautiful building that can be so much more than just a police station.