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Back to Archives | Back to July 2008 Contents 

Achieving Green Building Status: The Fort Collins Police Services Building

By Dennis V. Harrison, Chief of Police, Fort Collins, Colorado

Photos by Ed LaCasse

uided by a city directive that all new taxpayer-funded buildings be LEED certified, the newly constructed Fort Collins Police Services (FCPS) building has earned the federal program’s Silver rating and is pursuing Gold. This is somewhat amazing, given the facility’s stringent security requirements and round-the-clock occupation and use.


In achieving green building status, the Fort Collins design and building team seized on sustainable measures that did not compromise the facility’s functionality. For example, orienting the building along an east-west axis maximizes energy performance (reducing lights or heating/cooling use is nearly impossible since the building is operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week). Landscaping a large area in front of the southern exposure in such a manner that requires no supplemental irrigation (a process called Xeriscaping) provides a screen, helping to cool that side of the facility. Local and recycled materials were used extensively in areas including roofing, siding, glazing, carpets, doors, and masonry. Light-colored horizontal surfaces and a reflective roof were used to reduce the heat island effect as well as cooling loads, while high-efficiency, low-use water fixtures are used throughout. Finally, the building’s three stories reduce its footprint, minimize site impact, and provide efficient circulation, while the three-story atrium at the building’s center provides generous daylight.

The sleek and sophisticated new FCPS Building reflects the Colorado community that it serves. Similarly, the no-nonsense design places functionality on equal footing with grace—and achieves both.

Adjacencies and efficiencies drove the programming of this three-story, 98,878-square-foot structure. Flexible and expandable, the building currently houses property and evidence processing and storage, a records division, training facilities, a detention center with eight holding cells, an emergency operations center, and a police museum, plus a 1,900-square-foot community room available for public use. To this end, the facility was divided into three distinct zones: public, administrative, and secure. Care went into creating a floor plan that would restrict access to the building for members of the public without making their movements feel confining or confusing.

Design Considerations

Project History: The building’s grand opening on August 27, 2007, was the culmination of a decade of planning; a needs assessment was first completed in 1996 and updated every two years until the project broke ground on March 30, 2006. Aside from identifying affordable land in a reasonable location and securing financing for the project, the 260-person agency had to figure out what, exactly, it wanted in a building.

One thing the agency desired unequivocally was a relocation from the previous quarters, a cramped crazy quilt of approximately 27,000 square feet in an old city hall building; additional off-site building and storage spaces were also leased. Some of the questions posed about the building replacement included whether to build a centralized or decentralized facility, whether the agency should design the building to be shared with another agency, and how the agency could accommodate future needs while keeping the project within a reasonable size and budget.

Collaboration for Smart Design: Working closely with city officials, the FCPS came up with answers. First, it was decided that a centralized facility—one dedicated to police services alone—with small satellite offices was the way to go. This was considered a benefit to taxpayers in that it was more economical and more efficient to locate in the community. It was also determined to follow the needs assessment’s recommendation that the building allow for a 20-year build-out, which meant a fourfold increase in space.

Once these decisions were made, a project team was organized. The design-build team was headed by the Neenan Company, with Humphries Poli Architects and Brinkley Sargent Architects collaborating on the design. Though the team was heavy on local firms, including Neenan (working on its largest project to date) and Humphries Poli, team members were chosen for their excellence and experience.

From the start, the team made it clear that the FCPS was in charge. All three firms sat down right at the beginning once the concept was developed and said, “Tell us what conditions of satisfaction really are necessary for you to say ‘great job!’ and tell the world about this project.”

An orchestrated effort by the design team and constant communication among all parties yielded a facility that is both striking and intelligent. Located on nearly 11 acres with high visibility and excellent vehicular access, the building exudes a sense of welcome. Clad in ruddy Colorado sandstone, its three-story atrium and generous expanses of windows are balanced by a wide roof overhang that suggests protectiveness and solidity. Lush landscaping and clear paths lead visitors to the front entrance, flanked by the inviting community room. This design is a significant change from the previous building, where a hallway served as the lobby and visitors had to enter through the back—only to be greeted by a stairway, an elevator, and a lack of directions on where to go.

Adjacency and Access: Inside the new building, the principle of adjacency guided the locations of various services, allowing efficiency to reign. For example, public needs, which typically fall into a few categories such as records release, reporting of minor crimes, evidence release, and training, are located within a couple hundred feet of the front entrance. This way, the public benefits from the ease of access to these services, and police staff can avoid constant interruptions and disruptive noise levels. In fact, zoning is so tight that the entire second floor, which houses the dispatch center and break room, is completely removed from public access. Coupled with the building’s flexible-use spaces, the agency can quickly establish a secluded, self-sufficient emergency operations center when the need arises.

Holding Cells

In the same way, the building was designed in such a way as to give greatest access to certain facilities to those who require it, instead of funneling everyone together such that they get in each other’s way. For example, the design of the patrol area considers what patrol officers really need in the police facility—a place to park patrol cars within a couple hundred feet, go inside, check messages, and use shared work areas with computers. The training rooms, supervisors’ offices, and administrative staff are also right there. Even equipment order and repair areas are near the patrol area. Thus, the areas the patrol officers need the most are readily available to them; they need not wander around the building to do their job efficiently.

Behind the scenes, the building boasts such features as state-of-the-art audiovisual, security, and surveillance systems as well as a 9-1-1 call center with multiple levels of generator and backup systems, redundant power supplies, and telephone and data feeds.

Saving Money without Compromising Quality

All of this was achieved during what the agency has described as “two years that were in some ways misery and in some ways joy.” The incredibly active and cooperative efforts of the police team with the architects did make for some challenges, but that is precisely what ensured such great results. As of this writing, the $33 million building is on target to come in a full million dollars under budget, but not because it was done on the cheap. To cite one example of the team’s dedication to saving money without compromising quality, it was decided to fashion columns out of beveled drywall when the specified metal finish came in over budget. The solution actually works better because the material helps to deaden sound, and the level of maintenance is the same—painting versus metal cleaning.

Taking on a new building project is a lot of additional work. Chiefs should expect to spend substantial time weighing options and reflecting on the purpose of the facility, because most are not usually involved in constructing a new building. When they look at the plans for a beautiful building their architects and general contractors should be asking them, “Will this meet your agency’s needs?” If they fail to ask this question, that agency should be looking elsewhere for assistance.

The author thanks Kimberly MacArthur-Graham for her assistance in writing this article. ■   



From The Police Chief, vol. LXXV, no. 7, July 2008. Copyright held by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, 515 North Washington Street, Alexandria, VA 22314 USA.

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