Public Safety Facilities Designed for Officer Wellness, Community Connection
Public safety officers deal with traumatic life events every day. Add to that the intense scrutiny of job performance through body-cam technology, and it is easy to see why stress levels and mental health awareness is priority for many public agencies. This is also the reason why the design of a police station plays an important role to help to reduce stress and encourage connection, collaboration, wellness and efficiency.
Such is the case for the new Englewood Police Headquarters in Englewood. The project explores the need for a mission-oriented facility that is designed to reduce officer stress, improve safety, and operational efficiency. Additionally, the design places a focus on building a strong connection with the community with spaces designed to encourage positive interaction between police officers and visitors.
• Context. The city of Englewood Public Safety Services Complex was constructed in 1972 as a single building housing the police department and a fire station. The police department had outgrown the facility, with its building standards well below that of a modern police facility, lacking appropriate security and accessibility design. DLR Group’s design for the new facility serves as home-base for the staff of 110 employees by striking a balance between a functional facility and a welcoming environment for staff, officers and the community. A voter-approved bond was passed in November 2016 to build the new police headquarters facility on the site of the existing Public Safety Services Complex.
The project is a multiphased, 50,000-square-foot police operations building. The existing facility was demolished and replaced with secured parking supporting police operations. The building has been sliced at an angle to accentuate the civic plaza and direct pedestrians toward the center of the site.
The project site is occupied by an existing public safety building that includes the police headquarters and a fire station within a single structure. The project was planned to be constructed in two phases. Phase 1 builds a new police headquarters facility within the 0.85-acre strip of land that served as a staff parking lot. Phase 2 selectively demolishes the existing police station component and reconstructs critical elements that will enable the fire station to become a standalone building. In Phase 2, the space once occupied by the police station component becomes staff and fleet parking.
• Community connection. A primary planning objective was to create a civic presence on the space-restricted site to convey transparency to the public, and to strengthen community connection with spaces that support engagement between staff and visitors. Within the lobby, separate suites create space for victim assistance, community services and other support activities. Daylighting strategies bring natural light into the lower level of the building through roof openings. Additionally, interior office areas incorporate skylights for daylight.
The main lobby runs the entire building width along the street and pedestrian plaza. The exterior wall defines the lobby space as within a glass box that conveys transparency toward the plaza and park. A large wood overhang wraps the box, adding warmth and shade to the entry and presenting a civic image. The “Wrap” anchors the building to a plaza, strengthening a civic presence with deep overhangs that extend to a covered outdoor space at the main entry. The public lobby is designed as a simple glass volume within the wrapping shell structure. The Wrap structure is offset to the rest of the building, termed the “Station,” and the lobby glass box is captured between the two at a slightly rotated angle.
The public lobby is oriented along the entire width of the building, creating a linear relationship to an adjacent entry plaza and existing city park. The lobby edge angles inward from the street axis, producing a deeper plaza at the main entry, and directing lobby views toward the center of the park. A transparent edge is developed between interior and exterior space along the entire width of the building, the entrance plaza and the park.
• Operational efficiency. The Station component is designed as a container for police operations. The container is split into two tiers with a shear plane along the second floor, and its skin is a combination of brick and glazing organized along this plane. The skin extends around the four sides of the container and into the public lobby.
The facility optimizes the various process flows within the department that address the movement of the public, officers, prisoners, property and evidence through different zones of security. There are four zones of security within the building: public, semipublic, secure and maximum secure. The configuration of program and the movement through each security zone has been organized to enhance the safety, security and operational efficiency, and to optimize public access to services.
At the west end, there is a drive-through sally port along the entire width of the building for the secure movement of evidence and prisoners into the building. The operational movement through the sally port at the west end mirrors the public movement at the east end of the building.
Internally on each floor, a simple hallway connects the program spaces. At each end, a monumental stair and elevator communicate between a two-story space having a major daylighting element overhead.
• Staff wellness. Staff wellness is a key consideration, with interior support spaces designed to reduce stress. Use of daylight has been incorporated at every opportunity within. While the interior program requires many compartmentalized spaces for security, there are other spaces interconnected between floors, wide open, and configured to promote casual encounters between staff.
Where there is a need for privacy from the exterior, such as locker rooms and within evidence processing, the spaces are daylit with a combination translucent glazed skylights and clerestory windows.
The break room supports staff wellness with its connection to daylight, reference to the outdoors with natural planters, warm materials and openness. Its placement along the primary circulation stair will promote casual interaction between staff members. This space is dedicated to the officer’s spirit, mental health and overall well-being. Break room materials include American walnut with blackened steel trim and were selected for their warmth and richness. Materials recall the officer’s familiarity with walnut stocks and dark blue steel.
Although public safety officers spend their days or nights patrolling the streets, coming back to headquarters after a shift offers opportunity to recharge their spirit, review their day, and restore their sense of calm and connection to co-workers and the community. The well-designed police headquarters offers multiple opportunities to serve the officers who serve their communities.
Published in the September 2019 issue of Building Dialogue.