Green Bay's Airport Rescue & Firefighting Facility Mirrors City Hue

Nicole Nelson
Published in: 

Green Bay, WI, is known to "bleed green and gold" for its beloved National Football League team, the Packers. But the local airport adds a little silver to the city's color palette as well. 

The new aircraft rescue and firefighting (ARFF) facility at Austin Straubel International (GRB) recently earned silver certification in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) from the U.S. Green Building Council. The designation places the county-owned airport in an elite group of facilities with cutting-edge ARFF stations, as it is among the first to achieve silver-level certification.


Project: Aircraft Rescue & Firefighting Facility
Location: Austin Straubel Int'l Airport
in Green Bay, WI
Airport Owner: Brown County, WI
Cost: $9.4 million
Funding: $7.9 million in FAA entitlements
& discretionary funds
Construction: Oct. 2011 - Dec. 2012
Design & Engineering: Mead & Hunt
Construction Contractor: C.D. Smith Construction
Project Delivery Method: Design-Bid-Build
ARFF Services Contractor:
Pro-Tec Fire Services
Emergency Phone System: VoiceInterop

Airport Director Thomas W. Miller explains that new $9.4 million, 20,000-square-foot facility will not only improve ARFF functions at GRB, relocating the station was a "jumping off point" for more mindful and efficient operations overall.

Although the airport's previous facility met FAA mandates requiring a three-minute initial response time for aircraft emergencies, it was located on the air carrier ramp side of the airport, east of the main passenger terminal. Rescue vehicles had to cross a ramp south of the terminal to access accident and incident sites, often causing conflicts with and sometimes delaying air carrier traffic.

In addition to being old (circa 1976) and in poor condition, the 6,800-square-foot facility was also simply too small, he notes. A space needs analysis deemed that the facility was insufficient and did not meet the revised FAA Part 139 ARFF standards.

"We were trying to get 10 pounds into the proverbial 5-pound bag in the old facility," Miller recalls, noting that expansion was not an option because the facility was boxed in by buildings and other
construction projects.

In 2009, the airport determined that the firehouse needed to be relocated to another site and expanded to accommodate the airport's larger ARFF equipment.

A study included in GRB's 1999 master plan indicated that a centrally located ARFF facility would improve the response time and allow for future expansion of the terminal. And in 2008, architectural/engineering firm Mead & Hunt conducted a concept budget study for a new ARFF facility. Within that study, planners researched specific space needs and completed a more detailed assessment of two potential sites - one in the northwest quadrant of the airfield and another in the southwest quadrant. Both sites underwent environmental reviews in accordance with FAA project guidelines, and the midfield location northwest of the intersection between Runway 6-24 and Runway18-36 emerged as the best location for the new facility.

After Mead & Hunt finished the final design of the facility in July 2011, C.D. Smith Construction began construction of the design-bid-build initiative in October 2011 and completed the project in December 2012.
Mead & Hunt Project Manager Tim Close explains that 2,200 square feet of the new station is a below-grade area that houses mechanical and electrical equipment, while a single-story high-bay vehicle storage area contains 6,000 square feet for hose drying, aqueous film forming foam storage, a pump and generator room and four apparatus bays.

A 10,000-square-foot single-story area adjacent to the high bay contains a watch room and offices for the fire chief and captain. It also includes dorms, kitchen and dining areas, showers, a gear washing area, and communications and training rooms.

Together, the three areas provide nearly triple the space available in the previous facility.

Green Elements

Mead & Hunt included several environmental energy conservation measures, including the structure's deliberate solar orientation and a building envelope designed for low maintenance, durability, insulation value, noise attenuation and cost control, notes Close. 

Other energy conservation measures include solar light tubes, high-efficiency gas boilers, an in-floor radiant heating system, and automated controls for lights and heating, ventilation and air conditioning.

"Heat and air conditioning are being provided by geothermal wells, which were drilled into the ground 300 feet," adds Miller, noting that 24 units supply the ARFF facility.

Many of the building materials were extracted and/or manufactured locally, while others were made from recycled content. The facility's edifice is made of concrete from within 500 miles of the airport, and its steel roof contains recycled materials. Finishes with low or no volatile organic compounds were specified as well as water-saving plumbing fixtures such as dual-flush toilets and low-flow urinals, lavatories and showers.

Gold-Level Amenities

In addition to being environmentally conscious and LEED-certified, the airport's new ARFF facility is also cutting-edge in many other regards, says Close.

The airport consulted ARFF personnel to find the right products and features to meet their needs, explains Assistant Airport Director John C. Reed. "We knew we wouldn't be building another fire station for another 30 years, so our fire chief, Trace Paulson, as well as our employees, did a lot of research looking for the newest and best available while being as cost-conscious as possible," he recalls.

Paulson and the airport's ARFF crews are employed by Pro-Tec Fire Services, a Green Bay firm that was the first company to offer privatized ARFF services to airports back in 1974. Its first client was none other than GRB.

Paulson credits the airport for relying on the expertise of its contractors and letting end users have a lot of input into the facility's design.

Reed highlights the facility's crash phone system, by VoiceInterop, as a key improvement. The system provides immediate contact between the airport's air traffic control tower and the watch room inside the new ARFF facility.

"When the folks in the tower pick up the phone to announce an emergency, it automatically opens all of the apparatus bay doors," Reed notes. In addition, the system concurrently notifies key airport administration personnel via cell phone, and allows them to monitor communications between the tower and ARFF personnel.

All utilities in the kitchen of the new firehouse are automatically turned off when the crash phone is activated - a backup provision added during the project's design phase that could save ARFF personnel the ultimate embarrassment.

"If someone is cooking food when the alarm is activated, they don't have to worry about shutting off (the oven) or making sure they don't set the firehouse on fire, because it automatically shuts off in order to prevent any potential fire from developing in the building while they are gone," Reed explains.

Bucking the tradition of firefighters crawling on top of fire trucks to use gravity when filling the equipment with water, GRB opted for a system that refills trucks from ground level. An in-floor fire hose box with a fiberglass grate cover was installed to contain water and chemical supply piping joined to a quick-connect fire hose. As a fire truck pulls in, a hook removes the grate cover and the hose is drawn from the hose box and coupled to a ground-level fill port on the truck.

GRB also opted to start buying its aqueous film-forming foam in bulk containers and pressure feeding it into trucks in a similar fashion to the water. The change prevents firefighters from climbing on top of trucks to manually dump 5-gallon pails of chemicals into trucks, thereby greatly reducing the chance of fall-related injuries. 

A public safety officer is stationed 24/7 in the new facility's communications center to monitor GRB's access control and closed-circuit television systems to detect potential issues throughout the airport. A "smart wall" of monitors allows personnel to see a multitude of views, says Close, highlighting the center's added capabilities.

Fire Chief Paulson notes that the new station's training room and individual dorm rooms (vs. group bunkhouse accommodations) provide marked improvements in personnel comfort.

"Workout rooms are not unusual for a fire department, as firefighters have to work out to stay in shape; so we built a very small one," Reed relates. "But we, as an airport, could not afford the equipment to go into that room. The money just wasn't there."

That's where the hometown football heroes came through again. "The Green Bay Packers actually donated workout equipment to our guys," he explains. "Not every fire department can say they have used NFL equipment in their station."

Another popular, albeit less glamorous, improvement is the station's full-size kitchen with standard appliances. Previously, crews used a "dining nook" with a small refrigerator and microwave.


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