Given the generally bad sustainability news in the city, the late August opening of Colorado Springs Fire Station 21 has to be considered an outlier. But it's impressive regardless.
According to project architect and planner Jim Fennell, the city should find out in the next year whether the project at 7320 Dublin Blvd., will be the Springs' first city-owned building certified LEED-platinum by the U.S. Green Building Council. Inside an "old firehouse" design, the Fennell Group created a building that can boast the following:
• A "geo-exchange" heating and cooling system circulates fluid through tubing underneath the building, using the Earth's naturally stable temperature as a regulator. The small pumps used to circulate the fluid are powered by solar panels.
• Brick walls in the building's interior absorb the sun's heat during the winter and redistribute it throughout the station, while shading apparatuses cool the building in the summer.
• A greywater system allows water from showers and laundry to be reused for irrigation in community gardens on the property.
• Between on-site solar panels and green-power credits obtained through Colorado Springs Utilities, the 12,000-square-foot building is designed to save 42 percent on energy, as well as 30 percent on water, over a standard facility.
Leslie Hickey, finance manager for Colorado Springs Fire Department, says that "expenses are not final yet," but that the building is likely to run about $3 million. In total the project has a budget of $4.5 million, which includes design expenses, plus roadway and utilities work.
(As of Aug. 30, $3.5 million of that had been spent, with some drainage-related work yet to be done and some interior items still to be purchased.)
Most of the funds to make this station a reality have been in place for three years. About $1.1 million was set aside in 2011 for Station 21, but then "when the economy collapsed the same year, these plans were put on hold," says Hickey.
City Council ultimately approved $1.4 million to be transferred from funds originally planned for a different station. Another $1.5 million has come from three years of Public Safety Sales Tax funds, with annexation fees from local properties specifically dedicated to fire protection making up the remainder.
Meanwhile, a 2012 SAFER (Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response) grant through the Federal Emergency Management Agency will provide funding for the firefighters' salaries for the station's first two years.
Firefighters here are expected to respond to 500 calls for service in Year 1. Interim Fire Chief Steve Dubay says the model may be used for future stations, but first "we'll see how it goes, see if we get the return on investment that we're told should happen."