City picks ‘green’ design firm for two new fire stations

Thursday, May 31, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 5:56 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The city’s quest for more environmentally sustainable buildings will include two new fire stations that are slated for construction later this year.

The city has hired the Columbia architectural firm Peckham and Wright to design fire stations 7 and 9. Fire Station 7 will be moved a half-mile west of its current location at 3601 S. Providence Road; Fire Station 9 will be built at Blue Ridge and North Providence roads. Peckham and Wright will be paid $264,020 for its work. Money for the stations comes from the city’s quarter-cent capital improvements sales tax.

Architects with Peckham and Wright declined to comment on the specifics of their pending designs except to say that they’ll be in accordance with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards established by the U.S. Green Building Council.

The council’s Web site,, states that the earlier a building is registered, the more “green” design considerations can be incorporated into the project and the more successful it will be at meeting LEED standards. The LEED scale classifies how “green” a project is and measures how a building reduces energy requirements and fights pollution.

“Green” roofs are among the LEED suggestions for reducing pollution. Roofs planted with grass combat pollution by converting carbon dioxide to oxygen and filtering airborne particles. They can also nearly double the lifespan of roofing materials by absorbing damage, lowering heating and cooling bills and providing sound insulation, according to

Assistant City Manager Tony St. Romaine said that even though the environmentally friendly designs add $20,000 in documentation and certification fees to the cost of a new station, the initial building cost isn’t the only factor to be considered.

“‘Green’ roofs are more expensive, several times more, ... but you have to look at more than the initial cost,” St. Romaine said. “You have to look at the life-cycle cost and compare it with a ‘green’ roofing system. I think we will certainly see that it is less expensive.”

This isn’t Columbia’s first experiment with environmentally friendly fire stations. Station 7’s construction in 1983 was based on a solar design. Battalion Chief Steven Sapp said it wasn’t a very comfortable home away from home for the firefighters.

“I’ve always said it is really more like a fortress than a station,” Sapp said.

To make matters worse, the station never really worked the way it was designed to, Sapp said.

“It was a good and interesting experiment that just didn’t have the long-term outcome we had hoped for,” Sapp said.

St. Romaine said the fact Columbia has learned from other cities’ work on sustainable building designs should make the new efforts more successful.

“We’re not really at the head of the curve. The LEED program was established several years ago,” St. Romaine said. “Cities like Chicago have been a leader over the last decade. We’re taking advantage of the learning curve taken by other cities.”

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