The second floor of TGAS' proposal. Their bathrooms are clustered in the middle on the first floor and second floor to minimize plumbing costs. (Boston Road is to the bottom of this plan)

Permanent Town Building Committee Chooses Donham and Sweeney

The Permanent Town Building Committee has decided to recommend Donham and Sweeney as the new architectural firm for the proposed fire station on Boston Road.

Donham and Sweeney was one of three firms who presented their concepts for the fire station on Monday, a day before the committee was slated to provide their recommendation to the Board of Selectmen.

The North Andover station "loft" schematic, utilizing a limited amount of space.

The North Andover station “loft” schematic, utilizing a limited amount of space.

Located in Boston, Donham and Sweeney’s presentation focused on looks at several other fire stations they are currently helping to construct across Massachusetts, most notably nearby in North Andover.

There, they told the committee on how they saved North Andover money by not making the second floor of that fire station handicapped-accessible, placing all administrative offices on the first floor of the building and using the second floor only for items requiring non-support staff firefighters, who must meet certain physical requirements to stay in active duty.

That was just one of the cost saving ideas discussed by Donham and Sweeney, who believed the fire station could be constructed within $12.7 million appropriation issued for the station by voters in 2015.

In addition to moving the footprint of the station closer to the corner of Blakes’ Hill and Boston roads, minimizing costs needed for retention walls along steep slopes along the northern portions of the station’s proposed land parcel, Donham and Sweeney also emphasized a philosophy of minimizing space.

There, they discussed other projects that minimized corridor space and clustered secondary building needs like bathrooms and lobbies to reduce the building’s footprint, saving money on construction costs.

Committee members were impressed by the cost savings ideas as well as built-in points for public input placed within the design schedule.

The second floor of TGAS' proposal. Their bathrooms are clustered in the middle on the first floor and second floor to minimize plumbing costs. (Boston Road is to the bottom of this plan)

The second floor of TGAS’ proposal. Their bathrooms are clustered in the middle on the first floor and second floor to minimize plumbing costs. (Boston Road is to the bottom of this plan)

The Gallante Architecture Group, better known as TGAS, discussed many of the same concepts proposed by Donham and Sweeney in a five-point plan they said could bring the project in at $9.3 million.

Like Donham and Sweeney, TGAS proposed moving the station onto flatter portions of the property and adding efficiency with secondary uses. They also proposed a less complex roof structure and splitting bid schedules on differing parts of the project.

However, members of the committee voiced concerns about their ability to keep such an aggressive cost estimate and also worried that the cost reductions would make the building appear out of place architecturally compared to other municipal buildings in Westford.

Both firms proposed to complete the design phase and move to bidding around mid-August to Early-September.

The final firm, Kaestle Boos Associates, finished second in the committee’s poll of the three applicants.

They had served as the architects on Westford’s current Police Headquarters and on this night, they focused on a project they were overseeing in Carver that was nearing completion.

Members of the committee were impressed with the level of programmatic detail that could be offered by Kaestle Boos’ partner firm for fire stations, Mitchell Associates. Like TGAS, Mitchell Associates focuses solely on municipal emergency services buildings, participating in over 175 designs across the country so far.

A map of all the Kaestle Boos projects in New England.

A map of all the Kaestle Boos projects in New England.

The members were also impressed with the sheer amount of projects Kaestle Boos had completed in New England alone, including the fact that they had worked in Westford before.

However, there were concerns about their lack of specifics on how to keep the project under budget, with the presentation offering fluid possibilities such as reducing the project to only one floor. This, building on the cost savings in North Andover, would not only eliminate the need for costly elevators, but stairs as well.

They also proposed expanding the police dispatch center where it is, which would also keep the current police training room where it is as well, saving space at the new fire station. This idea met skepticism due to impacts on the police station’s bathrooms and adjacent parking lot.

The Board of Selectmen are expected to take action upon the recommendation at their meeting on Tuesday.