The sheriff’s building at 45 S. Main St. in Bel Air, Md., was built in the 1960s. The three-story brick and steel frame building is solid and serviceable, but it does have a few dated elements and issues.
Sometimes, it’s too hot inside; sometimes, it’s too cold. And you might not call it groovy, exactly, but there are some colorful aspects inside that are reminiscent of the decade of peace and love.
When Harford County decided it was time for an upgrade, both in look and function, it called on Murphy & Dittenhafer Architects.
A fresh look
There are a few interior design elements that need a definite refresh.
“There’s that classic green wall tile in the corridors – it reminds me of some schools,” says Architect Todd Grove, who is heading up the project.
And, while everyone’s in favor of redoing that look, as Grove says, there are some features that should remain.
“There are aspects of the building that we will be working around; there’s some good, durable, quality materials,” he says. For example, there are terrazzo floors that are “in perfectly good shape” but just need a bit of cleaning after five decades of foot traffic. Some of the stair towers have vintage railings that Grove wants to keep as part of the design.
“We will work with those areas,” he says. “But, we will infuse it with some new 2017 finishes – and something that’s maybe less dated, a little more timely looking forward. It will be a little bit of both.”
Keeping it cool
The building needs more attention on the mechanical front, however. The HVAC system has its flaws – the temperature can be inconsistent (or too extreme), and it lacks modern energy-saving features to make it more efficient and cost-effective.
“The county asked us to take a look at it and correct some of these systemic issues, as well as replace windows and glass,” Grove says. “We can replace that original single-pane window glass with insulated high-performance glass.”
Murphy & Dittenhafer embarked on a two-month effort, along with mechanical consultants, Kibart Engineering, to examine and understand the building and its systems. Their investigation determined the best fit among the different options for a new mechanical HVAC system. That study has been completed, and the process has moved into the budgeting phase, to make sure what the client wants is in line with the available funding.
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Welcoming and secure
The last element – and perhaps most important – that Murphy & Dittenhafer was asked to examine was the internal layout of the building, to see whether the various County Sherriff departments were using the building in the best way possible.
This was a good time to examine the layout of all four levels, Grove says, because the employees will have to move out while renovations are completed. As they move back in, they can move into better locations.
“We suggested a better layout for after it comes back online – better functioning, better utilization of space,” Grove says. “There’s a public nature of the building, where a resident of the County can walk in with a matter they need to discuss, but there’s also a more secure, private, area of the Sheriff’s building that needs to be recognized and dealt with.
“The sheriff’s department is there to serve the residents and public,” he adds. “They want to be inviting, so people shouldn’t hesitate to see them and talk to them.”
A modern finish
The end goal for the project is all about balance, Grove says. It’s keeping durable elements but adding a modern feel and efficiency. It’s about making the building flow for both employees working there daily and the residents who need their services, while maintaining a level of security. It’s helping the 1960s meet the current day.
It’s not starting over. It’s starting fresh.
“The goal is primarily to have a 21st century facility,” Grove says. “It’s reusing a perfectly sound structure but freshening up its appearance and making it much more functional, and then to have very energy-efficient systems, which obviously makes sense to be a prudent use of County tax dollars.”