Sylva finds it easy being green Solar panels and passive heating find their places in new police, fire stationsWritten by Quintin Ellison
The Town of Sylva, in a quiet way, is busy setting a green example for its Western North Carolina neighbors.
First the fire department, and now the new police department, incorporate green, environmentally friendly components. Sylva’s police soon will take over the former library building on Main Street now that the library has moved to a new home on the hill alongside the historic courthouse.
There are a couple of common denominators in these two municipal green projects: town leaders who support these sorts of efforts and Sylva architect Odell Thompson.
“If you can tap into that, you should,” Thompson said. “We do want to do the right thing.”
Police Chief Davis Woodard is a convert, too, adding it’s important “to go as green as possible.”
Green strategies packaged with renovations to the old library include solar cells to augment the electrical system and a solar setup to heat water for showers. Solar tubes, a form of sky lights, will provide additional natural lighting. Some of the retrofitting includes adding insulation along the brick walls inside the old library.
Town council members last week approved $786,500 to fund the renovation. Interim Town Manager Mike Morgan said he believes the project will be ready to go out for bid next month.
The green elements are provided as alternatives in the bidding package, Thompson said.
“Up until the last possible second we can accept them or not,” he said.
If the cost comes in higher than the town wants to pay, it can opt to include the green features or trim them down.
The town’s new firehouse was completed a couple of years ago.
There are photovoltaic solar cells to convert the sun into electricity. To save on heating costs, hot water warmed by the sun’s rays flow through coils beneath the concrete slab in the garage bays where the trucks are parked, a form of passive, radiant heating. The slab retains heat because it has thermal mass, which helps keep temperatures warmer.
Up to eight sky lights, known these days as solar tubes, to bring in natural daylight. The building is south facing, and there’s an overhang to prevent heat buildup in summer and accept heat during the winter.
The men’s room has a waterless urinal to save on water use. Plus the building avoided the use of volatile organic compounds in the paints or carpet.
Architect wants ‘timeless’
Plans also call for a new look for the library façade on Sylva’s Main Street. The outside of the former public library is dated, even to the casual observer.
“Our goal is to make it look like a municipal building in a good sense,” Thompson said. “Secure, welcoming — not dated. This, now, is 1970s. We want something that is timeless.”
Architectural features from Sylva’s oldest building, the C.J. Harris building on Main Street that now houses Jackson General Store, provided ideas. The architect termed the creative borrowing as a way of “paying homage” to Sylva’s historic past. This includes a portico entrance, which as it sounds is a porch of sorts leading into the building, plus simplification of the roof canopy.
Inside, the police department will have women and men’s locker rooms, office space and a secure area for keeping evidence critical in criminal cases.
Outside and inside will be updated and modernized, Thompson said, adding that Chief Woodard brought a self-created lay-out for the interior space that worked with just some tweaking. Woodard said he collected ideas from visiting law enforcement facilities in Franklin, Maggie Valley and in Clay County. Plus, he said, his officers had ideas about what would make for an efficient workplace in the 6,400-square-foot building
For now, the 15-member town police, counting only fulltime employees, will continue to squeeze into the current police department on Allen Street next to town hall. The officers share just 1,000 square feet.
“We’ve been in that box too long,” Davis said.
Jackson County owned the old library building, but agreed to a property swap with the town last year. The county gave Sylva the old library building, and in exchange the town gave the county the former chamber of commerce building on Grindstaff Cove Road.
No jail cells will be built in the future police department. As takes place now, any prisoners detained by police will be taken to the county jail at the administration building.
Sylva police department expense breakdown
Architect and engineering: $36,000
Site work: $40,900
Fixtures, furnishings and equipment: $76,800