July 11, 2019
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.
Designers initially considered natural stone but pivoted to manufactured stone veneers after assessing the material’s ability to save costs without sacrificing beauty. To accentuate the natural aesthetic, the design also called for the placement of wood beams in long, linear lines on the exterior to complement the masonry and the surrounding woodland scenery.
Leopardo recommended using a 25-mm (1-in.) stone veneer with the natural look of limestone and integrated color throughout the stone. This achieved the natural aesthetic about a third the cost of natural stone, while also offering the low-maintenance, long-lasting qualities needed for a high-traffic building like the Glen Ellyn Police Station.
For this project, Tallman chose an insulated concrete masonry system to deliver thermal performance, moisture protection, natural aesthetics, as well as a simple one-step installation rather than the traditional three-step process required for a structural wall, insulation or air gap, and exterior veneer.
“By using the pre-assembled system, the project team achieved long-term performance and protection over the originally planned steel framing and infill block design. It is a value-added engineering solution combining structural masonry, an integrated air and moisture barrier, insulation, and exterior veneer in a single 311-mm (12 ¼-in.) unit. Throughout the building, the system provided flexibility, performance, and a beautiful esthetic,” he said.
He noted it also eliminated the need to build separate structural and veneer walls, allowing one mason to install four layers in one pass. Fewer products mean faster installation time, thereby freeing up a general contractor’s (GC’s) schedule and helping to deliver the structure ahead of time.
The pre-assembled system offered the Glen Ellyn station protection from moisture penetration, fire, impact, and delivered true ci rated at R-16.2, well exceeding the R-13.3 rating required by the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) for climate zone 5.
Tallman adds, “It also was a big cost benefit to the owner not to spend money on poured concrete for the detention area, which they would have had to do, and then also pay for a finish.”
The west elevation of the building’s entranceway utilized the 25-mm limestone-look veneer installed as 4 x 4 x 24 units, including a 65/35 percent blend of randomly placed ground- and chisel-face veneers to optimize the shadow lines provided by the afternoon sun. At the building’s center, 8 x 8 x 16 buff-colored ground units and veneers in ‘maple’ hue create a subtler effect, while a random color blend of 8 x 8 x 18 long accent stone veneers in dark-colored and tan ground units were applied to create a bold, salt-and-pepper effect for the rear portion of the building.
With the project coming in under budget, the village was able to install elements that had originally been removed from the plan, including a fence, security cameras, and storage units.
The workflow of the new station is much improved. To make sure the building did not impede interaction among police officers and administration, designers created a general hub area.
“We refer to it as ‘forced collision’ because there are spaces such as the staff entrance and the break room that everyone in the building will at some point of the day pass through or stop in,” said Tallman.
To make the police station a true community asset, its two-story lobby serves as a social space with a 175-person capacity. This room carries the natural aesthetic inside, and windows are placed to maximize park views. The windows also automatically tint when the sun streams through. This space has become so popular the village had to restrict groups from making standing reservations years in advance to allow enough opportunity for everyone to use it.
“Police stations should be a place where residents feel comfortable talking to a police officer if something bothers them,” said Tallman. “This building’s open and welcoming style makes the officers within it more approachable.”
The centralized location, strategic layout, and design that complements the natural elements of the park setting better meet the police and community’s needs for the station. They are also more in keeping with what the village intended decades ago.
“The original building converted from a school was never intended to be the permanent police station,” said Tallman. “This is long overdue for the village and its residents and we are happy to have helped them finally achieve it.”
Dave Jackson is the brand manager for Echelon Masonry at Oldcastle APG, a CRH Company. Coming from an ad agency background with a specialization in building products, Jackson melds creativity and industry intelligence to help the Echelon team remain the premier provider of modern masonry solutions to architects and builders across the United States. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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