DCD Magazine: Barber County Annex

DCD Magazine: Barber County Annex

HMN Architects, Inc. partnered with Barber County in Medicine Lodge, Kansas, to provide full architectural services for their new Annex Building.
Although the County had a multitude of reasons to upgrade their facility, the most important was to connect with the public. The County decided it was time to invest in a $3,000,000 facility that would also function as an Emergency Operation Center (EOC). That reason precipitously turned into a real-life solution to an un-expected catastrophic event.
Barber County selected HMN Architects to design their new 11,924-square-foot Annex Building. Working closely with the County Commission, the new building was designed to meet their design goals as well as their budget. Although there were still a few tasks to be completed by Loyd Builders, the new Barber County Annex Building was turned over to the Commissioners on January 4, 2016. Soon after, the County moved into their new multipurpose facility.
Two months later, brush fires began burning out of control along Anderson Creek near Alva, Oklahoma. As the fire burned, the focus shifted from the needs of the Public Health Department to a race to set up an Emergency Operations Center. Within hours of notification, the newly-opened Annex Building was transformed into a command center that spearheaded the fight to control the 11th largest wildfire in the nation’s history, which burned nearly 160,000 acres.
During that time, the Annex Building proved its worth. Every square foot in the building was utilized. Finally, on the evening of March 26th and the morning of March 27th, Easter Sunday, an inch of snow fell in Barber and Comanche County. This spring storm on a Holy Day helped to bring about the end of the Anderson Creek Wild Fire.
Every thought and idea that went into the design of the building helped improve the county’s effort in a time of crisis. The material selection, with thoughts of high winds and flying debris, proved perfect for this situation.
The standing metal seam roofing, pre-cast insulated panels around the EOC, areas of corrugated metal siding, and the brick veneer along the exterior of the Health Department were resistant to embers.
The sealed concrete floors in the EOC seemed stark, but after dust, dirt, mud, and soot were tracked in by hundreds of people, it was apparent to all that the design decision made perfect sense. The bathrooms and exam rooms were troweled epoxy products, not only for ease of cleaning, but also for  their anti-microbial properties.
This facility was an instant success in a critical situation. The County and its new facility, with little time to prepare, quickly underwent a “trial by fire” to test its capabilities as the County’s “nucleus” in a time of emergency.
Luckily, there were no lives lost. We thank the dedicated staff, firefighting crews and selfless volunteers for this. The community will feel the loss of cattle and other livestock, along with fences, outbuildings and several homes, for years to come, but they now recognize the County’s vision in creating an EOC fa-cility. This facility not only serves the com-munity in its daily needs and scheduled proceedings, but also shines on those rare occasions of unexpected crisis.

This project was published in the September-October 2016 issue of the Design Cost Data Magazine. Check the rest of the magazine out here.