Blue Line Magazine June / July 2012
Located within 200 kilometers of Toronto to the east and the United States border to the southwest, London is Canada's fifteenth largest city and renowned for its consistent, balanced growth. The city is home to 366,151 residents and occupies 422 square kilometers.
Established in 1855, the London Police Service (LPS) is the largest municipal police service in Southwestern Ontario, with a complement of 825 employees: 607 police officers, 22 cadets and 196 civilians. It is the only major Ontario police service to operate all administrative and operational functions from one central location.
The current headquarters building, situated on the former site of the Globe Casket Company, was built in 1974 for almost $4.5 million and has 11,789 m2 (126,800 ft2) of usable space. At that time, the LPS had 296 sworn members and 88 civilian staff.
Construction began in June 1990 on a 2,508 m2 (27,000 ft2) addition, boosting space to 14,288 m2 (153,800 ft2) at a cost of approximately $4 million. A forensic laboratory was added in 2000, providing an additional 604 m2 (6,500 ft2) of specialized work spaces. In spite of numerous and costly renovations, the service had long since outgrown the existing building, which could no longer accommodate the operational and training requirements to meet present day policing needs. The 30-year-old design also reflected an outdated approach to policing and significantly limited staff's ability to fully address community needs.
A comprehensive space needs analysis was conducted internally in 2002, followed by an external consultant's report in 2004, resulting in recommendations ranging from a new "greenfield" building to various options for redesign and expansion. The latter option was chosen and the London Police Services Board (LPSB) signed a contract with CS&P Architects, which partnered with local firm Wasylko Architects, in October 2005.
The consultant team completed the schematic design phase, which included inspecting the current HQ building, discussing options and considerations with LPS members and creating conceptual design drawings allocating space within a defined building footprint. In addition, fact finding visits to recently constructed police facilities were conducted.
As part of the initial design process, extensive community consultation meetings were held, providing valuable input relative to the building's function and appearance, including "softening" the exterior façade to present an open and inviting appearance to the public. A final design was then presented to the community for final comments and the response was extremely positive.
In cooperation with London City Council, a four-year capital project funding model was developed, allowing construction to move forward. In preparation, several surrounding properties were purchased and the buildings demolished in early 2007. The LPSC signed a contract with general contractor Bondfield Construction in August 2007 to build the addition.
The project, valued at approximately $21 million, resulted in an additional 9,984 m2 (107,466 ft2) of functional space. Construction of Phase 1 began the next month and lasted until occupancy in December 2009. The LPS faced many disruptions to operations during this period, but the levels of service to the community were not impacted in any manner – a testament to the dedication of staff.
Several unique design features were incorporated into the addition to maximize functionality and address future needs. Given the dramatic increase in staffing levels since 1974, along with the increased need to secure issued equipment, personnel lockers were one area of concern. The construction team worked with a supplier to design a locker specific to the needs of LPS members, installing 746 of the 24-inch wide lockers. One of the unique design features – each locker is connected to an exhaust ventilation system to help remove odours and moisture from the locker rooms.
Each also has a removable boot tray to prevent mud and debris build-up, a large drawer for duty bag storage and a personal bench into each locker to reduce the aisle width and enable floor cleaning. They are a great improvement over the previous "school" size lockers and have contributed to improved morale. One example of forward thinking in the design stage was building the wall separating the male and female locker rooms in such a way that it can be moved to accommodate a change in the gender ratio of members.
One critical objective of the new design was to realign many operational units that had become disjointed over the years as the demand for office space increased. The workflow of the uniformed patrol division was analyzed and office designs attempted to maximize efficiencies. The patrol sergeants' office was located between the shift briefing room and report writing room, allowing for the effective flow of communication and supervision. All three offices were positioned adjacent to the locker rooms on the second floor and directly over the first floor uniformed division administration offices. Patrol staff sergeants' offices were located within this suite to increase information sharing with senior officers and streamline administrative functions.
An elevator at the west end of the addition allows officers to access the garage from the second floor locker rooms. Adjacent is a washing station where officers can clean their boots before entering the office/locker areas and facilities, allowing for decontamination of biohazards. Officers trained in heavy weapons are able to access the gun cases in a secure room built near the vehicle check-out area, eliminating the need to carry the heavy cases down two flights of stairs.
The new indoor firing range is state of the art, one of the most advanced designs in Canada. The 25-metre range has 10 firing positions and the sidewalls are covered with a combination of ballistic steel, plywood and 2-inch rubber panels, allowing for 180 degree, safe, live fire training. Lighting allows for a wide variety of conditions, including dimly lit parking lot situations, while an audio system, complete with subwoofers, adds realistic sound effects.
A large double door configuration allows vehicles and oversize props to be taken into the range, enabling officers to experience a variety of dynamic training scenarios. The range backstop is made of chopped rubber, stops bullets up to .50 calibre and can contain more than one million rounds before it must be cleaned. In addition to LPS members, some local police services have entered into agreements to use the range for their training.
The new fitness area has a large room for weight training equipment and an adjacent cardio room separated by a glass wall. The fitness room floor is raised, supported by hundreds of rubber "hockey puck" dampeners covered with an additional layer of concrete and rubber floor tiles. This design isolates the noise created by weights dropping on the floor and eliminates the transmission of sound throughout the building.
As a regional training centre location, the LPS conducts a wide variety of training courses year round. Adding three new classrooms, complete with fully integrated, multi-media equipment and separated by motorized dividing walls, was a welcome addition. They can be used separately or in various combinations, allow for groups of 15 to 120 people and are utilized for events ranging from large seminars to graduation ceremonies. In keeping with community involvement in the project, two custom-made wooden podiums were crafted by students of the neighbouring high school woodworking classes.
The existing underground parking garage had only one point of access for vehicles, presenting security concerns. With the new addition, underground parking increased from 78 spots to 173 and a second vehicle ramp was constructed. Each LPS vehicle is fitted with a transponder, allowing ease of access to the garage, which has improved building security and efficiency in servicing fleet vehicles. Given the diversity of vehicles, two external garages were constructed: one at the rear of the building houses the explosive disposal unit vehicle and equipment and has a specially-designed vehicle examination bay for the forensic section; the second garage has four-bays and is pull-through with oversize doors, built to accommodate the mobile command vehicle, tactical rescue vehicle and assorted watercraft.
Planning for phase 2 began during the last year of first phase construction. Completed by Hayman Construction of London, it involved renovating various areas of the existing building and extensive changes to the front façade. Renovations included adding six kennels for the canine unit (four indoor/outdoor) and a dedicated dog wash station. Phase 2 renovations were completed in September 2011 and the occasion was marked with a dedication ceremony attended by members of the LPSB, city council, LPS staff and community partners.
The need for a community meeting room was clearly identified during consultations and was included in Phase 2. Available to a wide variety of community groups, it is located in the non-secure public area of the building, providing easy access.
The end result of this extensive construction and renovation project, including all external buildings and levels of the main building, was an increase to 25,147 m2 (270,680 ft2) of floor space. Throughout the construction, business continuity and the sustainability of operations in the event of emergency or electrical power outages, as well as concepts of Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEEDS), were incorporated. The design also incorporated London Facility Accessibility Design Standards (FADS) in all new construction and renovations. These ensure that the building is accessible and inclusive of all community members.
It has always been the policy of the LPS to recognize efficiencies and work towards effective service delivery. There is, inevitably, a balancing act between services demanded by residents, resources available to the police service and the community's ability and willingness to pay. Therefore, opportunities to work collaboratively with various city departments, consulting firms, LPS staff and residents were included throughout the process to ensure fiscal responsibility and operational efficacy.
The completion of this project was the culmination of 12 years of study and cooperative effort. It was finished within the allocated budget of $33.7 million and now provides a fully operational building that meets the needs of staff and the community – and will continue to do so well into the future.