Importance of Functional Design in Emergency Service Buildings

When it comes to building design, balancing functionality and aesthetics is often a common aspect of building projects, however, that is not always the case. For certain architectural projects, such as buildings that are used as emergency services facilities, the importance of functionality eclipses any aesthetic considerations. These buildings especially, need to be well-suited to the purpose they were intended for, with functionality being vital in premises where speed is of the essence in the deployment of both personnel and vehicles.


One of the main functions of a building, in the context of architecture and design, must focus on the spatial organisation of activities. First put forward by architecture critics Hillier and Leaman (1976), what this means is that “a building needs to provide optimum support for the activities desired by properly arranging the available space”.

Emergency services play an incredibly important role and speed and efficiency are at the core of everything they do. With that in mind, buildings used by the various emergency service must serve that purpose, with a heavy emphasis on designing for functionality above all else.

Although practical functionality is important for any construction project, it is especially vital in buildings designed to be used by the emergency services, as intelligent design can save precious time in an environment which ruled by time-critical work. Functionality is also becoming increasingly important due to growing budget constraints, as the emergency services must provide the same quality of service, with fewer resources to maintain them.

How to Maximise Functionality

Given its importance, maximising functionality is key in emergency service premises, covering everything from the building design itself to intelligent layouts and the specification of efficient systems and doors. Although no longer used, firemen’s poles are a perfect example of how functional design can be used in emergency service building to save time by providing the quickest possible route for staff to access the vehicles.

Supporting the fast deployment of personnel and vehicles, high-speed doors are one way of maximising functionality and efficiency in emergency service buildings. These industrial doors have much faster operating speeds and often come with automated controls, making them vital for fire stations and emergency medical response facilities, supporting their fast response time.

The actual layout of the building, and how this is utilised, also need to focus on maximum efficiency and functionality. In order to achieve this, everything from individual room layouts to distance between vital areas – such as on-duty rooms and vehicle bays – needs to be carefully thought out.

When we talk about functionality and a building being fit for purpose, maintenance also needs to be taken into account. Complicated systems and high-maintenance components can often be detrimental in the long run, and should instead be discarded in favour of reliable components that will offer a long service life, and create minimal disruptions should they become faulty or require any maintenance work.

There is also an opportunity to maximise functionality in emergency service buildings through the use of technology and control systems to ensure the efficient running of the building, thereby increasing its longevity and efficiency. While this doesn’t at first seem related to the main function of emergency service buildings, minimising any potential problems within the building itself and automating much of the maintenance not only frees up resources but guards against any disruptions that would impact the delivery of emergency services.