Cedar Rapids Fire Chief Mark English recalls a meeting of the city's energy management committee that took place years ago.
The subject of LEED - Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design - certifications came up. A committee member remarked that a LEED Platinum designation - the highest possible level - was unobtainable, English recalls.
Today, the fire chief would beg to differ.
"This is a demonstration it's not unobtainable," English said.
English is talking about the department's central fire station, 731 First Ave. SE, which was awarded the LEED Platinum desgination by the U.S. Green Building Council. The designation was verified by the Green Building Certificate Institute, according to the fire department. The approximately $20 million project was funded through FEMA funds and I-Jobs grant money.
A building's LEED designation is determined by it's efficiency in the use of energy, lighting, water and materials, as well as the incorporation of other sustainable strategies. For instance, the central station gets points for being located close to public transit lines, having bicycle storage and granting preferential parking to low-emitting and fuel efficient vehicles.
"To me, the LEED certification stands for the meeting of a benchmark that shows the long-term sustainability of the building and the reduced long-term costs because of the energy efficiencies in the building," said English.
A Platinum designation was English's goal from the start, who represented the fire department as project manager for the central station. Rounding out the project management team were the City of Cedar Rapids, Ryan Companies US, Inc., Miron Construction and Solum Lang Architects, LLC. The new central station became a necessity when the Flood of 2008 inundated the former central station on Third Street SW. The new location gets the central station well out of the flood plane and has allowed the fire department to shuffle stations a bit, redraw coverage areas and provide better response times on calls for service.
While LEED design might have people thinking water-less toilets or washing dishes with rain water, English said that's not the case at the central station. The 67,140 square foot facility was built with recycled construction and features automatic shut off lights, temperature controls and water-conserving plumbing fixtures. The biggest point-getter, however, was the facility's geothermal heating and air conditioning system. English said the system cost $350,000, but the city has already received a $279,000 rebate and will pay off the balance in energy savings over the station's first 18 months of operation.
And while English wanted the building designed to be an icon for the city, it's also become a feather in the department's cap. There are only nine other fire stations across the country to achieve the platinum designation. Cedar Rapids' station is the largest and the only one that serves as the department's main station.
But, how well does it serve it's role as a central station? English says response times have improved in the new location.
"I've heard comments from our crews down there that proximity to First Avenue and the interstate has helped quiet a bit," he said.
The response from the public has been positive, as well, English said.
"It's truly an icon for the city," he said.In addition to the LEED Platinum certification, the Fire Industry Equipment Research Organization awarded the central station the 2014 Merit Award in the organization's annual Fire Station Design Awards program, which recognizes excellence in fire station design and construction.