Safety First

Oct. 1, 2007
New Construction Citation of Excellence: Erie County Public Safety Campus, Public Service Building, Buffalo, NY

In an era of new standards for safety and security, Erie County embarked on an ambitious program to consolidate public-safety functions, implementing the latest technologies for community preparedness. Whitehaven, NY-based Cannon Design completed the $33 million project in September 2005, achieving the goal of consolidating a base of operations for multiple safety and security agencies in a facility that would become a distinctive gateway to Buffalo, NY.

The Erie County Public Service Building, the first component of a multi-phased Public Safety Campus development, was a collaborative effort among the design team, national experts in law-enforcement planning and justice design, and nine separate user groups with overlapping requirements. The state-of-the-art facility hosts 20 agencies, enhancing the delivery of, and training for, the critical public safety services for Erie County, including the Sheriff's Office, Emergency Services, Central Police Services, Buffalo Police Department, and the Buffalo Fire Department.

Prominently located at the terminus of an interstate off-ramp, the Erie County Public Safety Campus opens up to the city of Buffalo. The facility lies within an open-space corridor, connecting the city core to the urban edge. To maintain an appropriate level of security, the building is set back 50 feet from the public way, but the architectural design melds the urban with the residential. Taking its design cue from the urban context, the building's façade reflects the nature of the city with changing scale, texture, and character.

The south façade is characterized by the 2-story glass lobbies at the southwest corner, framed by dynamic glass and textured metal bands. Facing the heart of downtown, the west façade has large-scale openings and angled planes that connect with the cityscape and enhance the building entry. The north face uses wrapped building surfaces to frame a curtainwall, introducing natural light into the program areas, and the east façade employs vertical openings to reduce the width of the building, strengthening visual connections between the neighborhood and downtown Buffalo.

By its very nature, this facility emphasizes safety and security for its visitors and employees. The multitude of cameras, smart cards, and other electronic sensors permits public safety managers to actively monitor conditions and situations both inside and around the perimeter of the facility. A "hardened" building, the facility is designed to remain fully operational in the event of natural disaster or terrorist threat. Redundant energy and communications systems ensure that the facility will still operate under extreme conditions. From the strategic use of architectural elements that provide passive security measures to the overt use of specialized security systems throughout, this building is designed to meet all security criteria while presenting a positive image for Erie County.

Judges' Comments

"Every aspect of the approach to all key issues was very evident and utilized in every detail. Multiple issues have been addressed and done so with style. The quality of the external façades is indeed a pleasure to behold; this is translated into the interior with the same commitment to detail. The design team faced a tremendous challenge in bringing together multiple agencies under one roof. With each agency having its own agenda and protocols, the design team is to be congratulated on producing a superb building."

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