When the town of Meredith came to SMP to determine whether it could expand the central fire station on its small, triangular site or if it would have to build a new facility on a new site, the challenges were numerous. Available land for a new site was on the outskirts of town, and relocating fire services would significantly increase insurance costs for downtown landowners. On the other hand, the 1950s design of the original station could not accommodate modern fire apparatus, let alone meet current building codes. Finally, Meredith was facing the challenge of rebuilding a fire station on site while assuring continuous, unhampered operations.
A further challenge came from the widespread belief in town that the need was not as dire as the fire department claimed. This is a common political dilemma in NH. The department had already paid extra to have its newest truck shortened to fit in the building, and it was easy to demonstrate all the places where safety and decontamination rules could not be met. The tax-paying public didn’t want to hear it. The solution was to hold an open house at the fire station, show the public the problems and invite them to try to help solve the problem. SMP designed a kit that allowed the public and the firemen to quickly lay out possible arrangements for an addition. By the end of the evening, even some opponents to the new fire station had (grudgingly) admitted that there were real problems, and the addition seemed to be the way to go.
A fundamental concept that emerged from that evening was the idea of separating the business side of the firehouse from the public side. To address the townspeople’s desire to “dress up” the station to fit in better with the quaint lakeside town, we investigated a retrofit of a pitched roof on the old building. Our structural engineer was able to show that getting the snow load to slide off the proposed pitched roof would actually reduce weight on the old building. SMP’s design accommodated all of the disparate requirements, brought the station up to date, and created a new landmark on the town’s lakefront.