by Dave Jackson
The Glen Ellyn police station in Illinois had been operating from the village’s downtown civic center for nearly four decades and was due for replacement. The suburb is a village in DuPage County, located 39 km (24 mi) west of downtown Chicago, with a population of 28,000. The community’s extensive park district connects the feeling of a small town with the majesty of nature.
One of the issues with the village’s police station, which was a renovated junior high school, was everyone—residents, police officers, and suspects—entered the 1022-m2 (11,000-sf) space through the same parking lot, and interviews were conducted next to administrative offices. In addition to prohibiting efficient officer workflow, the close quarters raised safety and privacy concerns, making it clear a new and improved station was long overdue.
After reviewing several methods and systems, Jonathan Tallman, regional public safety director for Chicago-based architects Dewberry and project manager for the Glen Ellyn police station project concluded new advancements in masonry wall systems were ideal for the new station.
In conjunction with attributes such as continuous insulation (ci), thermal performance, and durability, the selected system also delivered the design elements needed to bring the station into the 21st century. Dewberry selected masonry because it provided the flexibility to create a design that harmonized with the area’s natural setting with the look and feel of the surrounding neighborhood, as well as its durability. Tallman noted the strength of masonry could likely help the municipal structure last for the next 30 to 50 years, while meeting the project’s strict budget requirements—a feat not likely to be matched by other materials that are more vulnerable to damage from moisture, fire, impact, and general wear and tear.
In 2011, the village issued a request for proposal (RFP) for design firms with experience in public safety projects and landed on Dewberry and Leopardo Construction of North Aurora, Illinois.
As a first step, the Dewberry design team conducted a needs-based assessment over several months. This audit determined the previous space could not meet all of the precinct’s needs, ruling out renovation of the existing site. The current location was also deemed insufficient for the new build, leading the team to identify a location with greater opportunities for development near the village’s centrally located Panfish Park. In addition to being larger, this location is also closer to the road with the highest volume of accidents and other calls for service, so that police can respond to the bulk of the requests more quickly. Most importantly, the Panfish Park location gives police and community members better, safer access to each other.
Though there was a long list of ideal amenities, the design team weighed the needs studied against the budget of $13.6 million and determined some features should be postponed as future additions, such as a firing range and weapons training annex, as well as a parking garage.
With location and needs defined, Leopardo conducted a site analysis. The tests ruled out the possibility of including a basement and identified a floodplain that made it impossible to site the building exactly where designers wanted. Further, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) moved the floodplain a month into the design process.
“It turned out to be a big floodplain, so we moved the building closer to Park Boulevard, a lot closer to the street than what we are used to,” said Tallman, noting this created an 8-m (25-ft) setback instead of the usual 15 m (50 ft) minimum. To compensate, Dewberry added signs, bollards, and trees to the design to protect the building from accidents such as a car jumping a curb.
Though site selection can create challenges, Dewberry typically embraces the location of a project to help lend vision and inspiration to the overall design.
“We look at the materials, styles, and forms that already exist at—and around—the intended building site for considerations,” said Tallman. “In the case of Glen Ellyn Police Station, it was a park setting and the station needed to reflect it, more so than a typical brick office building would.”
Another key site consideration was the diverse surroundings, and that it would be visible from all sides. Residences are situated across the street, adjacent to the park, and a commercial-looking doctor’s office is located to the north. The south side of the building was designated for public parking, and the east side facing Panfish Park is dominated by natural grasses, paths, and a pond.
As a result, the 2734-m2 (29,426-sf), two-story headquarters was designed as a nature-inspired gateway to the surrounding public buildings, residences, and park.
“It was important that it look nice from all sides, not just from the front,” said Tallman.