Although the design and permitting process for a new firehouse for the Wheaton Volunteer Rescue Squad is complete, the squad is open to any last-minute changes that could make their new building a bit more environmentally friendly.
Ground-breaking is set to begin 13 years after the squad first hired an architect to do feasibility studies for a new station -- and 25 years after the squad first purchased additional lots in Wheaton with the intent of someday building a new station.
"The building is for the community, and we need to make it work for the community," said Thomas C. Brown, the squad's president, after presenting plans for the building to Green Wheaton, a local group that promotes conservation and sound environmental practices.
"If there's things we can change that don't cost a lot of money," but would make the new firehouse 'greener', then the squad would consider those, Brown said. He met with the environmental group Tuesday night at the Mid-County Services Center at their request.
Bids for the firehouse are going out this month. Construction is expected to begin in January 2011, and take 12 to 14 months to complete.
The 29,000-square foot building, located on the corner of Georgia and Arcola Avenues, will have four drive-through bays for fire trucks. Two stories tall, it will sleep 28 people and have a community hall for 250 people that the squad plans to rent out for wedding and other social events to raise money for its equipment and operations.
Now that the funding is in place, and all the required permits obtained, Brown said the squad won't be able to do any major revisions to improve the building's environmental impact. For instance, it would prove difficult at this late stage to revamp the design for the project's stormwater drainage system.
Green Wheaton has only been in existence for a year and a half and, as such, didn't have a voice earlier in the firehouse design and permitting process.
However, Brown said the squad was open to any pro-environment changes that could take place without reopening the design or permitting process or adding significant cost.
For instance, the squad could ask firms that will be bidding on the construction to make a list of voluntary items they could provide that would make the building more environmentally friendly and possibly, such as in the case of energy efficiencies, reduce the squad's utility costs over time.
"I don't have a problem with that at all," Brown said of asking bidding firms to list "green" alternates in their proposals.
The squad, he said, would also be open to changing the types of trees, flowers or other vegetation to be planted on its new site to avoid invasive species and maximize on-site water absorption. Such decisions are typically also subject to county approval.
The design already has some pro-environmental features. For instance, Brown said there is a filtration system so that the diesel exhaust that's released inside when the fire trucks are started is filtered before being discharged into the atmosphere.
Overall, members of Green Wheaton said they were pleased with the building's design and that the squad, at this late hour, is open to making whatever pro-environmental changes possible.
"We know we're coming in really late," said Green Wheaton's chair, Elizabeth Chaisson. She praised Brown's openness in looking at any last-minute 'greening' options because, at this point in the process, they didn't have to.